Lake Superior Zoo, Duluth, Minnesota

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Written by Anya Russom

As the new year approaches, we can’t help but welcome it with our utmost optimism and gratitude. 2012 was a rough one for us… maybe the hardest we’ve ever faced. And yet, here we stand, more driven than ever before. I’m going to be cliché here and say that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. As an organization, we have come to accept and embrace this motto. It’s easy to look back and feel the grief and heartache that 2012 has brought us, but that won’t do any good for anyone. The future is too uncertain, and that’s as exciting as it is scary, but as an organization that seeks to preserve the present in order to protect the future, we can’t really hope for anything more.

We sometimes refer to ourselves as the “little zoo that could.” It’s a name earned over time, and as we cross over into 2013, we will be celebrating our 90th anniversary. We’ve come a long way from Bert Onsgard and his pet deer, Billy. In our ninety years, we’ve survived the Great Depression, with many of our WPA projects (such as the bridges, Polar Shores [previously elephant house], and the Pavilion) still existing at the zoo. We first gained accreditation in 1985, lost it in 2006, and regained our accredited status in 2011 after the zoo was turned over from the City of Duluth to the Lake Superior Zoological Society. We’ve reinvented ourselves from the Duluth Zoo to the Lake Superior Zoo and changed our logo several times in order to keep up with the changing face of our organization. Finally, we’ve survived several major floods, the worst of which was in June 2012. Clearly, our history is not unscathed. And yet we press on, and it’s all thanks to you.

Through our hardships and our victories, you have been by our side. You’ve supported us through our toughest moments and have served as a constant reminder of why we do what we do. With your help, we remain the oldest, coldest year-round zoo in the country. Yes, Anchorage is colder, it’s but not older, and yes, Minot is older, but it closes when it’s colder (i.e. all winter). Hooray for fine-line technicalities! We are one tough, heart of the Northland, stubborn as all get out zoo, and we’re not going anywhere.

You might be wondering what are wishes are for 2013. Well, we’ve got a lot of them… too many to name here. But our greatest wish is for our animals to be at their happiest and healthiest and to give you the best zoo we can. Seeing how far we’ve come since our re-accreditation and even our progress within the past six months is invigorating. We want to be leaders. We want to bring you the best of what environmental education, animal conservation, and simple vacation have to offer. Of course, we’re always planning new and exciting additions and renovations for our animal exhibits, but updates on those will have to be given as they arise. One major accomplishment that will be ready for Spring 2013 is the renovation of our Safari Café. Our little eatery has served us well over the years, but it’s time for a change. For the upcoming season, we will be featuring a brand new menu (complete with some tried and true favorites) that focuses on farm-raised, grass-fed, organic choices. A full range of compostable plates, cups, utensils, napkins, etc. will also be implemented in an effort to expand our mission to its greatest potential. This plan is an offset of the Sustainable Twin Ports Training that a number of our staff underwent in Spring 2012. Families will also be happy to know that we will have a brand new train depot up and running for summer. The new installment will be visually similar to the last but will be placed out of the floodplain.

2013 is sure to carry its own bumps and challenges; we’re just hoping they’re not quite as harsh as 2012’s. This may be wishful thinking on our part, but we like to hope that this will be our best year yet. It’ll be so good that last year will seem like nothing more than a distant, albeit painful memory. Regardless, we will hold our heads high. To be charged with the responsibility of animal and environmental conservation is an endless mission, but one that we accept with our utmost gratefulness. Honestly, we wouldn’t have it any other way. We will continue to grow for the benefit of the community and develop for the benefit our animal residents. In 2012, you showed us how much you care about our organization. This year, it’s our turn. As thanks for all you’ve done, we’re planning on making 2013 the year that the zoo gives back, and together, with you as our support network, we will take 2013 by storm.

posted by Keely Johnson at


Blogger Wild Reed said...

Thanks for the update! Excited to hear about the changes to the cafe ... we will visit more often if there are some healthier, more local and exciting food options!

January 3, 2013 at 2:48 PM  

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