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Baraboo zoo redesign advances

December 16, 2018

With its deer herd relocated, the Ochsner Park Zoo is set to welcome new animals in exhibits to be built in 2019.

The Parks Commission last week signed off on a proposed redesign of the former deer grounds. It calls for exhibits featuring barnyard animals, beavers and llamas in that space, as well as a new gate and welcome kiosk. The redesign will ease crowding within existing exhibits and create new ones.

After commissioners expressed safety concerns about placing a gate at the corner of Park Street and Zoo Lane, Parks Director Mike Hardy agreed to consult with Police Chief Mark Schauf. The commission voted 5-0 to make that gate exit-only.

“It’s problematic,” Friends of the Baraboo Zoo board member Becky Hovde told the commission. “That area is very congested, especially in the summer.”

The zoo’s deer moved to a new pen at Park Street and Eighth Avenue in April. The Parks Department is capitalizing on an opportunity to bring in new animals and move others, including owls, donkeys and pheasants. Hardy estimated the overhaul’s cost at $20,000.

The plan calls for exhibits featuring multiple types of animals. Visitors will see various species live side by side.

“I think that plays into making it more of a natural habitat,” Commission President Roy Franzen said.

He said it was critical that zoo staff and the Friends group have input. When the commission reviewed a more preliminary version of the plan last month, it asked Hardy to bring staff into the loop and return with revisions.

“That’s really a big plus for this design,” Franzen said.

The next challenge is identifying a second entrance/exit gate. One former public entrance along Park Street was deemed unsafe for the public and is now for staff only, leaving only a gate near the zoo parking lot and the proposed corner gate.

Commissioner Angela Witczak said she supports placing a gate at the corner of Park and Zoo. “It doesn’t make sense to have two gates on the exact same side,” she said.

“The best-case scenario is to have them as far apart as possible,” Hardy said.

Commissioners discussed limiting parking at Park and Zoo to improve pedestrian visibility. That is to be part of Hardy’s discussion with the police chief.

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