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DULUTH-After weeks of scrubbing exhibits and mourning the loss of 14 animals, staff will reopen the Lake Superior Zoo on Friday morning.
It's the first time the public will be allowed in since the space flooded about one month ago. Some workers say they have not taken a day off since the rainfall.
Visitors are going to see a trimmed–back version of the facility during the first weeks back. Wolves, Grizzly Bears, Primates and Australian animals will still greet visitors while Polar Shores, the Farm, and different trails around the space will be limited.
Zoo CEO Sam Maida said on Thursday that they were making their final cleaning push of before doors reopen.
"It's important for us to get back into that mode. We've been kind of in a crisis mode for three weeks," Maida said.
"I really just want to see it get back on its feet," Assistant Director of Guest Services Anya Russom said. "I want to see happy people walking around on the grounds seeing the animals and the animals seeing them because they are very social."
"We haven't finished the playground," Maida said. "They'll be able to see it but they can't actually use it because we haven't replaced the sand in there yet. Polar Shores won't be open to the public because it's being assessed for some structural issues."
City of Duluth crews are also looking into a water leak that could cause underground problems, Maida said.
But the area looks one hundred times better than during the Northland's flash flood, workers said.
14 animals died as the water rose. Staff says they could not have recovered as quickly without the help of volunteers.
And although some crowd favorites, like berlin the polar bear, are still under the care of the Como Zoo, Maida says employees want to return to their mission of conservation and education even if visitor focus is still on flooding.
"There's going to be people who are going to want to come because they know something happened and they want to see what was the impact of that," Maida said.
"We've gone through something horrible but we are standing firm and we are going to overcome this. We are going to reclaim our zoo for us and the community," Russom said.
The Lake Superior Zoo opens on Friday morning at 10 a–m. and will stay open until 5 p.m. Tickets are $8 for adults, $4 for kids (3-12), and anyone younger gets in free.