Voters in Tuscon, Arizona will vote tomorrow on two funding proposals for Reid Park Zoo.
Without the assurance of more public funding, the zoo warns it will be unable to move ahead with its ambitious development programme – Vision2028.
Voters can decide to authorise the zoo to raise the non-food-related sales tax 0.1 percent for 10 years which would create a dedicated zoo fund. Or, they can vote to amend the city code to implement the tax.
The intention is to raise between 8 and 10 million dollars.
According to Nancy Kluge, President of the Reid Park Zoological Society, the money is all about improving life for the zoo’s animals. This would include providing larger exhibits for species such as the tiger, and also bringing more endangered species to the zoo.
Vision 2028 aims to engage guests with the use of new technology and real-life immersive experiences. The proposal includes a Discovery Trail to teach children about conservation, and an Africa Lodge where guests can see hippos close-up underwater.
The intention is to augment the 300 species of animals at the zoo and use expansion and construction opportunities to better deliver the zoo’s conservation and education missions.
Kluge added that the sales tax would keep the entrance fee at an affordable level.
Students at the University of Arizona also stand to benefit. According to John Koprowski, Professor in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment and Associate Director of Wildlife Conservation and Management, the funding would provide more opportunities for collaboration between the zoo and the UA.
The two already have a long history of collaboration. The UA is building an Animal Health Facility at the zoo. The project will enable the university to offer a new Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Programme. Students will be able to study surgery from observation rooms and treat exotic animals.
The zoo hopes that voters will view the economic benefits more tourism would bring as a good reason to say ‘yes’ to the sales tax. But, not everyone is in favour. Many say the sales tax has already been increased enough in recent years.