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IMCAL looking into possibility of zoo in SW La.

Last Modified: Wednesday, April 02, 2014 10:48 AM

By Justin Phillips / American Press

Putting a zoo in Southwest Louisiana sounds simple. They seem to be all over the place. The oldest is New Orleans’ Audubon Zoo, which opened in 1914. The one in Alexandria opened in the 1920s. The Baton Rouge Zoo welcomed its first visitors in 1970, and Zoo of Acadiana, right outside Lafayette, opened its doors in the early 1990s.

The idea of a zoo is simple. Turning that idea into reality, not so much. The Imperial Calcasieu Regional Planning and Development Commission has led a number of discussions recently about the possibility.

Jerry Jones, a member of the commission, talked a little bit about how the process is going. The earliest steps included the commission reaching out to Calcasieu Parish officials and city officials in Lake Charles and Sulphur.

“As of right now, we’re kind of at a hold. We’re still trying to see how local officials feel about the project in general,” Jones said. “Before we do anything, we want to make sure we hear everything the elected officials in the area have to say about the idea.”

The general concerns center around how much money the zoo would generate and how much it could cost taxpayers, Jones said.

As far as funding goes, a pair of nearby zoos provide examples of two different methods. For the Alexandria Zoo, the last few years have been harder than others. The city relied heavily on annual transfers from other city funds to make ends meet. In fact, to help alleviate some of the stress from those yearly transfers, Alexandria voters will decide whether to pass a property tax in May that would partly fund the zoo.

On the other end of the financing spectrum is Zoo of Acadiana. A nonprofit called Friends of the Zoo of Acadiana plays a major role in generating financial support for the zoo. The nonprofit makes it possible for the zoo to have special projects, animals, exhibits and events.

Even though the idea of putting a zoo in Southwest Louisiana is still in its infancy, the fact that it is being discussed publicly by officials in Sulphur and Lake Charles makes it a possibility somewhere down the road. Still, there are countless questions to answer and scenarios to consider.

In the end, the hope is that the attraction would not only bring in visitors from all the way out in east Texas, but it would improve the quality of life for local residents. For Jones and the other members of IMCAL, the goal is to come up with the ideas that start conversations about development.

“IMCAL is just the place where the idea starts,” Jones said. “Here, we’re behind any idea that will advance Southwest Louisiana.”

Posted By: Renee' On: 4/8/2014

Title: Of course not.....

Of course it is not "simple", this is SW Louisiana. We are still trying to bring plans for downtown development in which we paid thousands for over 10 years ago. We also make this so complicated. We pay thousands for plans, the thousands to study the plans, thousands to re-study the plans,then we continue to think about it. So very sad.

Posted By: Cheryl On: 4/3/2014

Title: Zoo

That would be so AWESOME!!

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