Lake Superior Zoo: Five Years After the Flood
Zoo Officials Hope to Downsize, Restructure Space and Offer New Exhibits
DULUTH, Minn. – Five years have passed since major flooding washed away years of hard work and dedication at the Lake Superior Zoo.
Millions of dollars are still being spent to repair and rebuild what was lost during those overnight hours.
“My first response is we had a problem, we had to get things done, my staff is amazing,” said Peter Pruett, Former Director of Operations, back in 2012.
June 19-20, 2012.
“It was a real disaster for the zoo,” said Dave Benson, Interim CEO of the Lake Superior Zoo.
Torrential rain took a toll across many parts of the Northland terrain.
“Some exhibits were destroyed and animals were loose,” said Benson.
Eleven helpless animals lost their life to Mother Nature in the middle of the night. Many recall seeing a photograph of Feisty the seal swimming down Grand Avenue.
“We talked, we sat down with our USDA inspector and talked about everything and by the time she left she was quite satisfied with our progress and what we were doing to correct future matters of this case,” Pruett told FOX 21 back in 2012.
Optimism coming from Pruett in the days following the floods. The Zoo received a citation from the USDA citing inadequate shelter for the Zoo’s barn animals.
“There are still parts of the Zoo that are closed because they’re not repaired yet,” said Benson.
Pigeons now perch atop a vacant bear exhibit. Visitors pass by, curious as to what use to call the enclosure home.
“Things are more consolidated at the facility now,” said Benson.
But bright flowers are blooming toward a better future.
“There was a question for a while after the flood about should the Zoo continue, should there be a zoo, and that’s been answered pretty strongly in the community,” said Benson.
Strong support coming forward in the wake of natural disaster.
“It’s been a difficult period, but we’re really through that now,” said Benson.
Benson doesn’t plan to be with the Zoo for long. He is, however, looking forward to continuing to make the facility a more inviting space. Benson plans to work closely with the staff, while putting efforts toward fundraising as well.
“We are restructuring the footprint of the Zoo, making it smaller and hopefully having the exhibits closer together,” said Benson.
Plans he says the Zoo hopes to have completed within the next two years.
“Whatever I can do to improve the organization, simplify it and help it,” said Benson. “It’s a beautiful place.”
This summer, Benson says zoo goers will be welcomed by a new butterfly exhibit. A new bear enclosure and a Forest Discovery Zone are also in the near future.
“People who visit the Zoo from other parts of country are really impressed with just how beautiful the setting is,” said Benson.
The Zoo has since developed a capital campaign to deal with the remaining structural issues.
The organization is also up for recertification this summer with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Click here to learn more about the Lake Superior Zoo.