MICHIGAN CITY — As the calendar year for the Washington Park Zoo came to a close Oct. 31, it was announced the zoo achieved its highest attendance record to date.
“As of (Oct. 31) we managed to get 100,400 people into the zoo this year,” said Washington Park Zoo Director Jamie Huss.
Huss added that their highest year prior to 2016-17 was in 2014, with last year’s attendance rate being 85,121.
She said she credits the increased attendance rate to the various interactive exhibits that have been added to the zoo over the past few years such as the otter exhibit and an exhibit known as the turtle shell.
“That’s a huge thing for the kids, to climb around in the turtle; they love it,” she said.
She also credits the success to public activities such as Boo at the Zoo, which also had a record breaking attendance this year.
“This year we had 4,160 people over both days and we had 3,640 people last year,” she said. “That’s a 520-person increase which is amazing given the weather was worse last year.”
Huss also said that in addition to this year’s attendance going up, revenue has gone up as well.
“From the train to the avery to the gift shop everything has gone up,” she said.
Additionally, Huss said the zoo is starting to formulate big plans for drawing people in when they celebrate their 90th anniversary in June.
“Right now we’re thinking about daily giveaways from local businesses, but we would also like to get input from the community; 90 is a big birthday to have,” she said.
Going forward, Huss said the zoo will continue to proceed with their five-year redevelopment plan, which will result in the zoo being arranged into regions that represent the animal’s’ origins. Huss said the zoo is also hoping to move their deer habitat to the back of the discovery deck.
“This will make it as natural as possible for the deer to roam and graze,” she said.
Huss added that once the funds are provided, the zoo will work on revamping Monkey Island and the Rotary Children’s Castle, two key structures that have been a part of the zoo for a long time.
“Our next goal is the island and the castle,” she said. “They’re big projects but we’re picking away at applying for grants and we’re grateful to have so much support from the community.”