ROSWELL, N.M. (KRQE) - In the wake of criticism over its treatment of animals, Roswell's Spring River Park and Zoo has a new master plan.
City councilors unanimously approved the vision for the zoo and by the end of the year, there will be changes on the zoo grounds.
Big plans are in store for Roswell’s Spring River Park and Zoo.
“The priority is getting the mountain lions relocated into a temporary structure so that we can do some serious planning for a permanent exhibit,’’ explained Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh.
After urging officials to take action and even offering $10,000 in exchange for relocating the mountain lions and bears to a reputable sanctuary, PETA approved the city's master plan.
“The master plan would get the cougars and the bears out of the concrete pits where they are currently confined. It would put an end to antiquated corn-crib style enclosures where they are now,” explained Brittany Peet, Captive Animal Law Enforcement Director for PETA.
The 50 page plan, which would be executed in phases over at least 10 years, would ultimately change the structure of the zoo.
If followed through to its entirety, the plan would cost $34 million, but right now the city has only approved the vision.
In phase one, the plan is to start charging visitors for the first time, while boosting attendance numbers. Officials think that starts with better marketing and outreach.
“We want the kids to come out and the public and we want to show you what we are doing inside,” said Park and Recreation Director Jim Burress.
It would also mean more educational programs for families, but the first step is to accommodate to the mountain lions and bears.
“The idea is to get them into the dirt, and to lay in the sand. They have water, so we may also bring up the moat that you see now. Bring it up to a higher level so you're closer to the animals,” Burress said.
“It may take us 10 to 20 years to get that final facility, but as long as we keep working at it and keep making improvements, we will keep making this better,” Mayor Kintigh added.
In a city survey, the majority of people said they were willing to pay up to $2 to get into the zoo as it is. The zoo will also have to put up a small building to collect admission. That will be one of the first projects done.
The Friends of the Zoo, the group that helps with the fundraising for these projects, says it's in desperate need of new members. For information on how to join, call (575) 624-6760.