If you build it, they will come
Zoo project works to drive tourism to county
By Kris Leonhardt
KEWAUNEE COUNTY – A project that Kewaunee County officials and the Zoological Society of Kewaunee County (ZSKC) plan to start work on this summer not only aims to help reinvigorate the zoo but is also working to draw visitors to the area on a larger scale.
The project is being completed with a $100,000 grant that is being matched by both the county and the zoo society to raise $300,000 for a new pheasant exhibit.
“It’s a donation from the Bruemmer family. It’s a donation from the Kewaunee County Zoological Society and then also funds from Kewaunee County itself. So the zoological society, private donor and the county are all coming together to try to put together this as an exhibit,” explained Kewaunee County Administrator Scott Feldt.
“We have been working with the ZSKC on this project and are hoping to start this summer. The group is a nonprofit and has worked diligently over the years fundraising for several upgrades at the zoo and park including the pheasant exhibit,” added Kewaunee County Promotions & Recreation Director Dave Myers.
“The ZSKC has found that this exhibit would be unique as a lot of zoos do not have an exhibit that specifically showcases different types of pheasants.”
“The pheasant exhibit is looking to have just pheasant so it would have a number of, I’ll call them, cages where we have different species of each different type of pheasant. And if you’ve ever seen pheasants most people know of the Ring-necked pheasant or even the Golden pheasant but there are some Asian species of pheasants that are very, very colorful and very beautiful. So, eventually, we’re going to start off with eight different pens that will have a different species of pheasants within it. Eventually, we’d like to expand that to even more pens, so that way we would have an example of each different species of pheasant,” explained Feldt.
“At least to our knowledge, there’s no other exhibit like this definitely in the state of not in the entire Midwest and who knows even about the country, but definitely within the state and we believe in the Midwest. And so that would make it a very unique draw to Kewaunee County, in that for those that are outdoorsmen or just love pheasants, here is an opportunity for them to see these different types of pheasants. So we believe it’s something very unique to Kewaunee County that our residents, as well as visitors, can enjoy.”
With the donation, Steve Bruemmer said that he hopes to write “the next chapter in the philanthropy of the Bruemmer family.”
“The Bruemmer Park Zoo was founded in 1936 due to the efforts and generosity of my grandfather Leo Bruemmer and his brother, Otto, my uncle, in honor of their father Judge Louis Bruemmer, my great grandfather, after who the zoo is named,” Bruemmer explained in a letter to the Kewaunee County Board.
“I am especially enthusiastic about the creation of the new pheasant enclosure which will showcase a variety of ornamental pheasants. With this new exhibit, the hope is that Bruemmer Park Zoo might become to pheasant lovers what the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo is to crane lovers.”
Feldt said that a variety of factors — including inflation and availability of contractors — have delayed the project in progressing, but they plan to start work this year.
On a larger scale
The lower portion of Bruemmer has seen other work in recent years, as part of a larger effort to reinvigorate the park by the county and zoo society.
“We have different aspects of Bruemmer Park that we were looking at in previous years. We’ve done some improvements and some good maintenance. We have replaced a lot of the caging that had been at the zoo and as well as we created some green space… We have now a variety of animal statues. A couple of them are just beautiful ones — this beautiful metal giraffe that was done by a local artist here in Kewaunee County. That same artist then did an elephant. We also then have some other ones of a tiger and a lion, rhinoceros and zebra, but the two large metal ones are an elephant and a giraffe. And that’s all (in I’ll) call it lower Bruemmer Park where the zoo is,” Feldt said.
County officials also hope to add a new educational center that would include restrooms, meeting and storage space and veterinary space that could be used by both the upper and lower areas of the park.
“We have some preliminary designs, but we’re still waiting for that because we want to get the pheasant exhibit off and running first,” Feldt explained.
“We know that there are going to be some changes as to where we put that exhibit, which may mean that we will need to make some modifications to what is right now the deer pen.”
The upper portion of the park also offers a storybook trail.
“That was a donation from Door County realtors, where it has a children’s book app. You start there, you walk a certain distance and there’s another couple of pages to read; you go another certain distance, another couple of pages to read,” he stated.
A project is also in the works to add an inclusive playground to the upper park area.
Read more about the inclusive playground project at https://kewauneecountystarnews.com/2023/04/a-place-for-everyone-to-play.
Myers said that ZSKC has been a major catalyst in getting the reinvigoration work in motion at the park.
“ZSKC has been a wonderful group to work with that has done an excellent job fundraising for the zoo. In the past, they have helped fund upgrades for our bobcat and arctic fox exhibits along with a new goat and deer stable and fencing upgrades for those exhibits,” he explained.
“Each year they hold two major fundraising events — Zoobilee and Zoupart — they do meet monthly and are always looking for new volunteers and donations for future upgrades at the park.”
For more information on Bruemmer Park and the zoo society, visit www.bruemmerparkzoo.com.