The Friends of Wright Park Zoo and the city of Dodge City held a strategy meeting at Hoover Pavilion on March 12 to discuss fundraising cabinet strategies and plans for their Redo the Zoo initiative.


“The zoo is owned and maintained by the city, but it really belongs to all of you, to the community,” said assistant city manager Melissa McCoy.


Concerns about the Wright Park Zoo and how to improve it have been a topic of discussion for the City of Dodge City since 2018, with a particular focus on infrastructure.


According to statistics obtained from focus group feedback orchestrated by the city, 87% of people from kids to senior citizens expressed a desire for a better zoo.


According to McCoy, a lot of the ideas shared by the public are going to be implemented into the project’s master plan as it goes forward.


She added that the ideas expressed by the public regarding the Wright Park Zoo are relative to Kansas wildlife and exhibits currently featured and to be featured in the zoo.


Elementary school students were said to express a special interest in gardens, which evolved into “Viva Kansas,” a new component meant to help embrace culture and diversity and includes, pollinator gardens, sensory gardens and flower gardens.


The overall idea of the master plan, which constitutes three phases, is to tell the story of Dodge City and southwest Kansas through the wildlife featured in the exhibits.


Other components to be added to Wright Park Zoo per the second phase of the master plan include the new entrance, the gift shop, playground, new restrooms, picnic areas and food trucks.


A special excitement is the future addition of otters during the third phase, with McCoy adding that they have been absent from the southwestern Kansas area for about a century.


“The idea is to elevate the zoo, to become something that is there for you and your families to enjoy, but also for visitors to enjoy and to complement the other attractions, like Boot Hill Museum and the Long Branch Lagoon,” said McCoy.


The Friends of Wright Park Zoo restarted in 2018 after falling apart in the early 2000s, according to group president Jill Ewy, and reformed under the intention of helping the zoo.


Their most recent successful project was the 2019 return of Boo! At the Zoo.


“Little did we know, they were going to redo the zoo,” said Ewy. “So here we are, redoing the zoo.”


Ewy said the FWPZ is still looking for passionate people to join its efforts.


In addition to the partnership with the city, the group has also partnered with the Community Foundation of Southwest Kansas.


The Community Foundation of Southwest Kansas is responsible for managing the funds for the Redo the Zoo Campaign, with these donations being tax deductible and stored away until they are needed to pay for services required for the project.


Ewy said that while the campaign is still in the early phases, the FWPZ is primarily focused on raising the money needed for the complete long-term success of the project.


“You’re not just donating for you, you’re donating for everyone that comes through the Wright Park Zoo,” said Martha Bryant, a contributor to the project.


Thus far the city of Dodge City has pledged $2 million to the Redo the Zoo campaign and has applied for other grants for more financial aid, with the goal to raise a matching $2.5 million.


FWPZ also invites peoples to consider naming opportunities, in which people can make one of the habitats at Wright Park Zoo carry their name.


To learn more about Friends of Wright Park Zoo and its ongoing mission, including membership application and naming opportunities, contact Ewy at jillatfwpzoo@gmail.com.


For more information on how to contribute to the Master Plan Fundraising Project, contact McCoy at melissam@dodgecity.org or 620-225-8100.


Residents can also contact director of parks and facilities Troy Brown at troybr@dodgecity.org or 620-225-8160.


Additional information about the master plan can be found at www.dodgecity.org/106/wright-park-zoo.