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Published September 04 2013

Forum editorial: It’s all happening at the zoo

Twenty years ago, a group of Fargo residents got together to contemplate establishing a state-of-the-art zoo in the city. Six years later, a modest Red River Zoo celebrated its grand opening. Today, zoo personnel, patrons and animal lovers will gather for one of the zoo’s premier annual events, ZOOlebration.

It’s been quite a journey. It might not have begun at all had it not been for the dedication, determination and vision of those early members of the Red River Zoological Society, and the community support they generated in the past two decades. Working with a sometimes reluctant Fargo City Commission, zoo supporters brought then-Mayor Bruce Furness into their camp. Despite objections from visionless naysayers, the mayor helped cobble together a creative financing package so the society could purchase the initial 33 acres in southwest Fargo that eventually became the zoo.

Since then, the local zoo has established itself as a self-sustaining (it’s operated solely with earned revenues, memberships and donations) center for education, animal displays, breeding and innovation in the showing and protecting of endangered and other species. In those roles and disciplines, the relatively small zoo has earned a national reputation for excellent work.

The zoo has grown, as its early supporters envisioned. In addition to high-profile animal displays such as the wolf enclosure, red pandas and the soon-to-open river otter exhibit, the zoo continues to enlarge and expand education and conservation efforts.

Today zoo patrons and benefactors will gather for ZOOlebration, which is both a fundraiser and celebration of the zoo’s service to the community and nation. One highlight of the event will be viewing of a spectacular public art piece depicting the history of the zoo by local artist Magda McGowan Szeitz. The piece near the zoo’s entrance was unveiled Tuesday.

Congratulations to all – contributors, students, staff and everyone who visits – for making the Red River Zoo an unqualified success.

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Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.