Lake Superior Zoo Receives Large Donation for Bear Country Exhibit

The construction phase for Bear Country will take about six to eight months.

DULUTH, Minn. – Next year Lake Superior Zoo hopes to open a new Bear Country Exhibit, and after a large donation from Irving Community Club, it’s now one step closer to that goal.

Lions, tigers and soon to be bears oh my!

Lake Superior Zoo employees tell me they want to make Bear Country a signature exhibit.

“This is about trying to put together a series of exhibits that will replace our cornerstone Polar Shores Exhibit that we lost six years ago,” said Lake Superior Zoo CEO Erik Simonson.

Irving Community Club has been a longtime supporter of Lake Superior Zoo. It’s a relationship that dates back more than 20 years.

“It’s a passion of ours to take of these institutions in our homeland,” said Irving Community Club CEO Kathy Resberg.

Staff members say they stepped up because they had to.

“If someone doesn’t step up and help we will lose our zoo,” said Resberg.

The campaign to raise funds for Bear Country started less than a year ago.

“This isn’t getting it started, this is getting it finished,” said Simonson.

Add in the $20,000 from Irving Community Club, and Lake Superior Zoo leaders believe they have enough support to bring this $4 million project to life.

Bear Country would be the zoo’s first 100 percent sustainable exhibit, built to consume energy only from renewable resources, according to the Lake Superior Zoo website.

“So here is something they’re going to see that we’re doing with that money, that they can all come and enjoy,” said Resberg. “Not just children, but everyone can come here. This is a diamond in the rough.”

Zoo staff want the environment of the bears to match the environment where they came from. So they’ll use some of the old Polar Shores Exhibit for the new Bear Country exhibit.”

“We’ve had the ability to bring kids here from perhaps that might not have had the opportunity to visit the zoo without the opportunity that we have created for them,” said Simonson.

Zoo staff believe the Bear Country Exhibit will provide education and up close opportunities for guests.

The goal is to have two cubs that will grow up together so their story can be used as an educational tool.

“Within the next six to eight weeks, I would suggest to you that we are in a position that we’ll be signing contracts, selecting contractors and moving this project forward,” said Simonson. “We want to see this exhibit open in 2019. and we are so excited about that.”

A proposal for the project is set to go before the Duluth City Council next month.

The construction phase for Bear Country will take about six to eight months.

The Irving Community Club is now challenging other organizations to get involved.

“Step up and help the zoo, because we need to keep it here for our kids and our grand kids,” said Resberg.

This donation only adds to the growth of Lake Superior Zoo.

Earlier this year the zoo was awarded almost $2 million dollars from the state bonding bill and that funding was matched by the City of Duluth.

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