The Pathway to Asia Expansion
The Reid Park Zoo expansion is one element of a larger plan which includes improving the infrastructure of the existing Zoo grounds, as well as enhancing habitats in the current footprint.
Propositions 202 and 203, a small city sales-tax increase for a period of 10 years, passed in 2017. Once the Zoo was assured of this community support, and in consultation with the Parks and Recreation Department and the City of Tucson, planning began in earnest for the exciting improvements and expansion which had become a realistic possibility. On October 9, 2018, the Mayor and Council approved the Management Agreement for the Zoo’s 2018 proposed Master Plan, and improvements began. Funding for the planned improvements (including the approximately $2.5 million already expended on the groundwork for the expansion) has been fully realized through the sales tax revenues and also through the generosity of donors who believe in the Pathway to Asia expansion and its enduring value to our city and our planet.
What has been done so far?
Quite a bit! Since 2018, the Zoo has opened the Temple of Tiny Monkeys, and the general infrastructure has been shored up throughout the grounds. The Welcome Plaza, both outside and inside the Zoo entrance, has been redesigned with more seating areas and much more shade. The exit has been reconfigured. The Flamingo Lagoon is complete, and is the first sight to greet visitors as they enter. Certain habitats have been refreshed – for example, the Andean Bear exhibit is undergoing a transformation right now. Also about to be initiated is the World of Play addition, a multi-sensory play area with a major educational component, where children can run, climb, dig in the dirt, and experience the lives of animals in different habitats. There will be more changes inside the current Zoo boundaries in the years to come, especially a redesign of the current central area to reflect Africa and its species.
Throughout the planning process, the Zoo designers and architects have paid close attention to the trees and wildlife in Reid Park, arranging for their preservation and welfare whenever possible. Many of the healthy existing trees will be incorporated into the Pathway to Asia, but many more trees will also be added inside the Zoo’s new footprint, further mitigating the urban “heat island” effect in the area. The Zoo has replaced the filtration system in Reid Park’s North Pond, making it a more desirable and sustainable environment for wildlife in the area.
The Pathway to Asia
The Pathway to Asia expansion will bring many more species and inestimable beauty to Tucson. Here are some of the species slated to enjoy life in the expansion:
Tigers are critically endangered in the wild. RPZ can now build a beautiful habitat big enough to accommodate a breeding pair of these magnificent creatures, including a waterfall and stream, and a pool with underwater viewing access.
Red Pandas, who were tremendously popular when RPZ served as a temporary habitat for them in 2017, will be in Tucson to stay! They will share their habitat with the Muntjac deer, a compatible species known as the “barking deer.”
Siamangs, primates with loud, musical cries and boisterous personalities will definitely make you look skyward. You’ll most often see them swinging with amazing athleticism from a carefully engineered series of poles and ropes as they enjoy each day in their spacious, interesting, and comfortable habitat.
The Wings of Wonder will be a new interactive aviary with many beautiful and amiable birds, like gold pheasants, red-whiskered bulbuls, silkie chickens, and others.
Fishing Cats are roughly the size of our native Bobcats – but they have one useful adaptation the Bobcats don’t – webbed feet! You’ll be able to see these great swimmers hunt in their own pool.
Sloth Bears can look forward to lumbering around an amazing habitat full of natural features and amusements like a climbing structure and “scent detectors.”
Komodo Dragon! At last, Reid Park Zoo will have a REPTILE HOUSE, and the star of the show for many Zoo fans will be the Komodo Dragon. They are the world’s largest lizards, and can grow up to 10 feet long – comparable to the size of the Zoo’s American Alligator! You’ll also get to see other lizards, turtles, various amphibians, and of course snakes – and learn how each and every one plays an important role in their shrinking native habitats.
Finally, the Pathway to Asia will include a beautiful event center, The Asian Pavilion. We’ll be able to walk inside to take a peek into the Sloth Bear cave, see the Red Panda habitat from another angle, and again – look up! There are those Siamangs swinging and calling out! The planners see the Pavilion as the perfect venue for both community events and private celebrations, as well as a pleasant rest area for Zoo visitors.
After years of careful planning and coordination with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, construction on the Pathway to Asia is ready to begin, and the animals are ready to join us here in Tucson. We can’t wait!
The Assistant City Manager presented three schematics for the Expansion, each within the parameters set by the Mayor and Council on May 14. Members of the core stakeholder group were in attendance, and discussed the merits of each option. The expansion is going forward, and we’re hopeful that the design selected will be settled on soon, balancing the needs of the animals and the Reid Park Master Plan, and getting us that much closer to being able to visit The Pathway to Asia!