Zoological society serves as backbone for Bruemmer improvements
By Kris Leonhardt
KEWAUNEE COUNTY – While the county owns and manages the approximately 60 acres that make up Bruemmer Park Zoo, its zoological society serves as a backbone of support to fundraise and improve the park’s zoo exhibits.
Zoological Society President Pam Zander said that the group got its start after the passing of Pa Bear in 2010.
“The zoo has been here since the 1930s. It has gone through many changes in that time period. But for the last probably 40 years, nothing’s really been done or kept up that well. We did have a bear in here. Pa Bear was some years 27 years, and when he passed away, we (couldn’t) put one back until we change some things that are in here, and that’s why the zoological society was started,” she explained.
“So, we’ve decided to revamp everything that’s here; create bigger, larger exhibits for the animals that we have; and then go from that adding new. And, the pheasant exhibit will be our first new exhibit in probably 40 years.”
“I think it’s great having a new exhibit; there’s not been a new exhibit in a long time here. I don’t know the exact years on that, but I mean it’s a great thing for progress for the zoo group and for the county to have some new things coming in here,” said Kewaunee County Promotions & Recreation Director Dave Myers.
“You know the statue exhibits or statue garden was a really nice addition to kind of start off with bringing more things for people to do down here and now having the pheasant exhibit just adds more to that, so it’s very exciting.”
But the new pheasant exhibit is just the first step in a succession of work, as the county and zoo group are next looking to add a visitors’ center/restroom building.
“The restroom buildings we have currently are aged. They need to be replaced,” Myers added.
“So, the group and the county, we’re going to start with this exhibit. It’s kind of a starting point and (we’ll ) kind of work towards the next. But, that would be the next step to start fundraising for that with the group.
“I really think once this is completed in hopefully August or September that’ll be a really good stepping stone to the next project. You know, people start seeing the change that the group’s brought to the zoo with the new enclosures, and we had the new deer and goats’ stable a few years back and little things. This is a big thing. So, I mean, seeing this will be a definite step in the right direction.”
Myers also said that both projects are part of the county’s five-year comprehensive parks plan, which will come up for renewal in a couple of years.
“This is a planned item, the nature center/environmental center and restrooms are a planned item on there. Obviously, with fundraising and whatnot, that’s what we’re working on,” he added.
“We literally have a blank slate after this next project with the environmental center. Then it’s going to be sit down, meet and figure out where we’re going to go from there.
“This first exhibit here is kind of a springboard into bigger and better things to say, ‘Look, we’ve delivered on what we said we would do with this first exhibit.’ I mean, a $300,000 exhibit for us, it is quite an expensive exhibit compared to the other work that we’ve done. This is probably about the equivalent of the cost of everything else that we’ve done at the zoo so far,” explained Zoological Society Secretary/Treasurer Brad Coenen.
“So, this is one of the largest projects we’ve taken on to date. One of the other things that we have discussed is the education center, which would actually be restrooms for the park as well. We anticipate it being over a million-dollar building, just with the size that we’re looking at the scope of it; but, that would offer space for when some of the schools come out here that they would have educational space inside as well as space to take care of the animals when they’re here.
“And with Bruemmer Park inclusive playground they’re working on — raising funds for an all-inclusive playground up above, right next to the existing one. They’re going to need different restroom facilities as well that are ADA-accessible.
“So, the current bathrooms that are here have been here since the early 1900s from the quarry that was operated here.”
And with all of that in mind, the work to raise funding will fall squarely on the shoulder of the society, which wants to keep the facility free for all.
“We are a free zoo and we want to keep it a free zoo,” Zander added.
And no one appreciates it more that the staff that is responsible for its operation.
“None of this would be possible without them. Honestly. I mean, they’ve been instrumental in fundraising and upholding Zoobilee and Zoupart and all these events they pull off to fundraise and little, you know, cookouts and things like that. It all takes a lot of work. So, without them it wouldn’t be possible,” Myers said.
To learn more, visit www.bruemmerparkzoo.com.