Minnesota Zoo director John Frawley has proposed plans for the 500 acre attraction in Apple Valley, including a treetop walk and campground to connect visitors with nature.
Included in the plans, Frawley has proposed turning the 1.8-mile monorail track into an aerial treetop walk, reports the Star Tribune.
The Zoo’s out-of-commission monorail shuttled visitors for 34 years, but now Frawley envisions an attraction similar to New York City’s High Lane park – built on an old elevated freight railway.
“Where else can you do that in Minnesota?” asks Frawley, whose plans also include campgrounds, hiking trails and an adventure course to the nearly 500-acre property in Apple Valley. “All of these things are going to get people outside, moving their bodies.”
The five year plan for the zoo will see fewer ‘blockbuster’ exhibits and more bite-sized investments, that will better connect guests with nature.
Frawley’s goal is for the zoo to serve as a gateway to Minnesota’s state parks: using hundreds of undeveloped acres on the grounds and enlisting the support of corporate and community partners to support conservation work.
There are also plans for a base camp in the backwoods with a lodge, cabins and tent sites – though not all plans have been approved by the board. Administrators see a potential boost in revenue from charging for sleepovers under the stars.
Department of Natural Resources Commissioner, Tom Landwehr, spoke of his expectation that the zoo would capitalize on one of the state’s favourite pastimes by giving those who wouldn’t normally “rough it” in the wild an appreciate of nature.
“When people spend less time outdoors, they care less about nature. That has a direct result on conservation,” he explained.
Frawley expects no immediate increase to entrance fees that currently are $18 for adults and $12 for kids.
Image Courtesy Minnesota Zoo via Facebook.