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City of Topeka officially turns Zoo control over, to Friends of the Zoo



TOPEKA, Kan. — Critical control moves between the City of Topeka and its Zoo culminated in FOTZ officially gaining control of the Zoo and its property boundaries Thursday night. Deputy Mayor Mike Padilla turned a ceremonial key over to the Vice-President of the group, Tim Risner, in an announcement reception in the Kay McFarland Japanese Gardens at the Zoo.

It ends a process that began a decade ago, on a firmer model for operating and maintaining the World Famous Zoo. It’ll be change away from requiring the City Council to approve every expenditure and change the Zoo requested, to a free-form committee which will plans project and raise money to make them happen.

“I was asked in my 2011 job interview if I had ever worked in a public-private partnership for zoo operations,” Brendan Wiley said. He agrees with FOTZ President Fred Patton now that the changes are being made, you won’t see any changes to the way the Zoo is being run, right away. Wiley did mention one change happening soon. On Monday, contractors will begin work for Friends of the Zoo on a $6 million dollar reworking of the giraffe enclosure area.

“This is an exciting day, transitioning governance of the Zoo to Friends of the Zoo. You’ve seen all the exciting things we’ve done with Camp Cowabunga and in Kay’s Garden, and we think this change will allow us to do great things,” says Fred Patton of the transition plans. Patton says FOTZ will implementing plans they have been holding back on until the “ceremonial key” was turned over to them.

Patton says there are no expansion plans. The Zoo will remain within its current boundaries, but he says lots of unused space will be the place for their plans of the future.