County, city reach zoo deal

Bonneville County Commissioner Bryon Reed, left, shakes hands with Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper after the city and the county reached a deal that will result in the expansion of the Idaho Falls Zoo at Tautphaus Park. Also pictured is Bonneville County Commission Chairman Roger Christensen. courtesy city of Idaho Falls

The city of Idaho Falls and the Bonneville County Commission have struck a deal that will result in the expansion of the Idaho Falls Zoo at Tautphaus Park.

Following a public hearing Tuesday, the Idaho Falls City Council approved the purchase of the Bonneville County 4-H Fairgrounds from the county, a city news release said. The county has plans for a new, larger fairgrounds near Sandy Downs.

“I was really happy to see it come to completion,” Commissioner Bryon Reed said in a phone interview. “It will provide the city with historic buildings and a chance to expand the zoo, and it will provide the county with revenue for the new fairgrounds.”

“This is a wonderful step forward for the entire community,” Mayor Rebecca Casper said in the release. “As zoo attendance continues to increase, this expansion becomes more and more timely. It will allow us to draw in more tourists even as we educate more young people about the natural world around them.”

The property, located adjacent to the zoo on Rollandet Drive, was sold for $695,000 following an independent appraisal.

“The future is looking bright for the expansion of the zoo, as well as new 4-H fairgrounds near Sandy Downs,” Parks and Recreation Director Greg Weitzel said in the release. “I’d like to especially thank (Reed) for his leadership on this important project — we believe the best is yet to come.”

The zoo will see further expansion because of a $500,000 donation from William J. Maeck, a retired chemist and prominent local philanthropist, for an education center. The center will be called the Maeck Family Foundation Education Center.

“We are very excited about the possibilities that this new land provides for the future of the zoo,” zoo Executive Director David Pennock said in the release. “With over 300 animals in our care and having served more than 158,000 visitors this year alone, the zoo desperately needs more space.”

Reporter Bryan Clark can be reached at 208-542-6751.