Posted at: 06/20/2013 4:01 PM
Updated at: 06/20/2013 6:20 PM
Last year's flood devastated the Lake Superior Zoo, but community support got it back up and running. The zoo said thank you with free admission on Thursday.
Hundreds of guests lined up and piled into the zoo to celebrate. Director of Zoo Operations Peter Pruett said it put a good spin on a tough anniversary.
“It's a nice day to stand up and say thank you for everything,” Pruett said.
He said community support was critical for them to recover from the flooding that killed 14 animals and swept 3 others from their exhibits.
A year later a memorial has been dedicated to those lost animals, and it sits beside a fully renovated barnyard exhibit. Pruett was proud of that exhibit.
“Every time I walk by and I see people in there whether they are 4-years-old or 40-years-old petting a goat or a sheep it makes you happy. It makes you smile. That is exactly what a contact yard is supposed to be,” Pruett said.
Flood scarring still shows on the edge of Kingsbury Creek in the zoo, but children were able to enjoy everything from porcupines to kodiak bears on Thursday.
“The kids are going to make the decisions in the future and we want to make sure they understand how important nature and wildlife is. So it starts here with them,” Pruett said.
That was something parents could agree with. Andrea Mistelske said it keeps her and her four children coming back to the zoo.
“I think it's important that the kids have an opportunity to see how to protect wildlife and I think that children really learn a lot from coming to the zoo,” Mistelske said.
Only the Polar Shores exhibit remains closed. Zoo officials said they are carefully considering expensive repairs or a rebuild, but it will take time to raise the funding for either option.
The zoo is close to complete recovery, but the community is still rebuilding homes and streets. Pruett said the zoo's story shows the resilience of everyone in the Northland.
“The big thing is we really did show the world what a caring community can do and what it can accomplish,” Pruett said.
Zoo officials said Berlin the polar bear will continue to live in Kansas City, and Feisty, the seal found on a city street after the flood, is doing fine at the Como Zoo in St. Paul.