Moving the Jackson Zoo is a great move

By TIM BEELAND,

Remember going to the zoo as a child? Remember taking your kids to the zoo for the first time? Your grandchildren?

I certainly do. I loved the Jackson Zoo as a child and young adult. I remember grand family outings, with picnics in the park outside the gate by the lake. The thrill of riding that little train that ran around the outskirts of the park before finally heading inside through the gates to adventure.

The monkey castle, the snake cave, the flamingos standing on one leg. The turtles wondering around. The big old gorilla and the cages of exotic birds, they were always amazing to watch.

The elephants taking a shower and the giraffes munching hay — sometimes inside, sometimes out. Ice cream and popsicles, cotton candy and peanuts and an occasional handful of somethings to toss to the pigeons waiting for a treat on the park bench. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my, we were always hoping they would all be out on the day we were there.

I’m not sure when the last time was that we went to the zoo. When I say we, I refer to my own little family of three. I think it was probably about 20 years ago or so but it was just as exciting then as it was when I was a kid I think.

On the zoo’s website homepage, in part, this is what greets visitors:

 For almost one hundred years, the Jackson Zoo has been a place for the community and its families to come together in a natural setting, surrounded by some of the most beautiful animals on the planet. No where else in Mississippi can people watch a one-ton White Rhino graze, a troop of chimps play away their day, or a Sumatran tiger stalk a patch of sunshine...As we look forward to our next century, we need the community’s continued support as we not only create experiences that become memories, but also work to save endangered wildlife and eco-systems, as well as help the community understand more about the world around them.

That’s certainly true, but if there is going to indeed be a “next century” of memories made at the zoo, the time has come for a move.

When we lived in the city, we were members of the Friends of the Zoo but soon stopped visiting as crime in the inner city of Jackson grew worse. We weighed safety against fun and excitement and opted for our livelihoods.

Last week, though, came the news that the Board of Directors for the Jackson Zoological Society “has accepted and approved a task force recommendation to find a more optimal location for the animals and their visitors within the city of Jackson.  The final recommendation was to investigate the adaptation of 25 acres at the LeFleur’s Bluff State Park into a new zoological and family attraction.”

That is a wonderful idea!

LeFleur’s Bluff is located just off I-55 in Jackson at the Lakeland Drive Exit. There is easy access there, and in combination with the other fine facilities located in proximity — The Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum, The Mississippi Children’s Museum, and the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science — it would become more than a family attraction, the whole area could easily become a family vacation destination. Especially for long weekend holidays. In addition to the museums, just down Lakeland Drive in Flowood, there are hotels, fine dining and casual restaurants, and plenty of shopping as well as a movie theatre, trampoline park, bounce houses and the like.

Fine family fun!

Of course Jackson City Councilman Kenneth Stokes has chimed in — a great understatement — and claims it is not the location of the zoo that is the problem, but rather the management of the zoo. “I don’t think moving is the answer to the problem, I think what we need is a company who really knows how to run a zoo in an urban environment,” Stokes was quoted on a Jackson television station.

He’s wrong!

There have already been over 20 murders in the city of  Jackson this year and according to the website NeighborhoodScout Jackson has a crime rating of 4 on a scale with 100 being the safest. NeighborhoodScout also says there is a 1 in 112 chance of being a victim of violent crime in the Capital City. However, at the same time it lists the Lakeland Drive area as one of the safest in the city. 

Let’s make some more good ole family memories. Let’s move the  Zoo, it’d be a great move!