Zoological society has done much good -- Warren J. Gordon

March 28, 2019

With charges flying back and forth, I don’t pretend to comprehend all the issues driving the county executive’s office to divorce the Henry Vilas Zoological Society from ongoing zoo operations. But as a volunteer at the zoo for the past 10 years, I’ve seen the value the society brings to the zoo every day.

In the short time that I’ve been involved with the organization they’ve successfully completed the Zoo Barn exhibit (featuring the popular “feed the goats” concession), a state-of-the-art animal healthcare facility, Arctic Passage (the largest renovation project in zoo history), the new Wisconsin Heritage Exhibit (featuring Decker and Kaminsky, our ever-popular Badgers) and Zoo Lights, which actually prompted thousands of people to visit the zoo in the dead of winter.

But according to the charges leveled by county administrators, the society has apparently raised too much money, and employed too many people. The society currently employs 13 full-time and 50 part-time staff. If a private corporation creates jobs it’s celebrated, but for a publically-funded organization it’s cited as another case of government waste.

Since my contributions as a zoo volunteer are no longer welcome, I hope that zoo operations will continue after April 1, as the county executive promised. But I’m afraid Joni Mitchell put it best when she said, “Don’t it always seem to go / That you don’t know what you’ve got / ’Til it’s gone.”

Warren J. Gordon, Madison