Voters in Portland, Oregon, will have the final say on a $380 million bond measure to update animal enclosures, improve accessibility and expand guest amenities at the Oregon Zoo. The Metro Council approved placing the bond on the May 2024 election ballot.
The proposed bond would cover Phase 2 of capital improvements dedicated to improving sustainability, providing conservation education and protecting animal health. Phase 1 was approved through a $128 million bond measure in 2008. The 2008 bond enabled the zoo to update its endangered species habitats, build a veterinary hospital and establish an education center.
The 2008 bond measure transformed approximately 40% of the zoo’s 64-acre campus. The upcoming May bond election would build on Phase 1’s successes, further improving and developing the zoo.
If approved, the Oregon Zoo would replace outdated habitats for endangered species such as sea otters, penguins and other marine mammals. The animals currently live in some of the oldest areas at the zoo, dating back to the 1950s. The zoo would also update the giraffe exhibit to better accommodate the species’ needs and well-being.
The updated habitats would include natural designs, interactive elements and better refuge from heat and extreme weather. Zookeeping staff would receive more functional spaces for work and continuous animal care during natural disasters.
The zoo would enhance campus sustainability and resiliency by reducing energy and water consumption in new habitats. The zoo aims to reduce energy use per visitor by 25% and municipal water use by 50% compared w a minimum-code compliant building.
To achieve conservation goals, the zoo would update aquatic habitats, replace outdated infrastructure and improve efficiency. Ultimately, all conservation investments would support the zoo’s transition to a 100% renewable, all-electric campus by 2040.
The zoo would invest in enhancing conservation education access for visitors by installing engaging and interactive exhibits in the zoo’s most popular areas. The exhibits would highlight the zoo’s conservation efforts and wildlife information. In addition, the bond would ensure all Phase 2 improvements would align with and support the zoo’s conservation work with state and federal agencies, Tribal governments and nonprofit conservation companies.
Other bond investments include improving the campus’ ADA compliance, increasing accessibility for guests of all abilities and ages. This includes updating the zoo entry, pathways and rest areas. The zoo would provide better coverage for visitors, enhancing protection from heat and other extreme weather. The zoo investments decrease congestion and make it easier for visitors to locate exhibits, restrooms, food vendors and other amenities.
The 2024 bond measure is a part of the Oregon Zoo’s 20-year Campus Plan. The plan was updated in Oct. 2023, replacing the original 2011 Master Plan. The Campus Plan will guide how to implement the 2024 bond, prioritizing areas of the zoo that weren’t covered by the 2008 bond. The Metro Council is currently reviewing the Campus Plan, which the Oregon Zoo expects to adopt later this year.
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Photo courtesy of the Oregon Zoo