The Randolph Park Children’s Petting Zoo was first opened in the 1960s as a children’s petting zoo. In 1978 it was renamed The Reid Park Zoo. The zoo was initially funded primarily by the City of Tucson. In its first few years, it had rabbits, billy goats and a variety of domestic animals that were donated. It also had Prairie Dog Town, which had a loop road that went around it where people could drive their cars to view the prairie dogs. It is now home for polar bears, lions, jaguars, giraffes, rhinos, anteaters and other creatures.
In February 2008, the $4 million Conservation Learning Center was unveiled and received a platinum LEED certification (that means it's environmentally friendly). The building's insulation is made from old blue jeans, there is recycled Styrofoam in the walls, solar panels provide energy, and countertops are made from recycled glass. The center helped boost registration for programs by 50 percent in the summer after it opened. The new learning center was part of a master plan, which included a 7-acre expansion and a new elephant exhibit. The City Council and the Tucson Zoological Society funded the expansion.
In 2017, voters passed Propositions 202 and 203, allowing the Reid Park Zoo to continue expanding using a small city sales tax increase for a period of ten years. New exhibits include a “Pathway to Asia” exhibit featuring tigers and red pandas, and expansions to the African and South American exhibits. The Tucson City Council halted the project for 45 days in 2021 after public outcry against the expansion into Reid Park, which would have destroyed the southern duck pond and Barnum Hill. The new design for expansion will take over parking lots instead.
“Expansion planned at the Reid Park Zoo, opens a new window.” Arizona Daily Star. Caliente section. July 9, 2009. Page 23.
Ludden, Nicole. “Tucson City Council votes to pause Reid Park Zoo expansion project.” Arizona Daily Star, March 9, 2021.
Cullen, Noah. “New plan in works for Reid Park Zoo expansion.” Arizona Daily Star, November 13, 2021.
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