The Elk Grove city staff and the Sacramento Zoological Society on Sept. 23 announced plans to consider the relocation and expansion of the Sacramento Zoo to Elk Grove.
Through an exclusive negotiating agreement, the city and zoological society will spend the next six months studying the feasibility of relocating the zoo to about a 60-acre portion of a 98-acre parcel near the future intersection of Lotz Parkway and Kammerer Road in south Elk Grove.
That undeveloped property is currently owned by Kamilos Companies.
A city press statement noted that the city recently secured an option to purchase that property, which would be appropriately zoned for a zoological park upon the city’s approval of a use permit.
For many years, efforts have been made to relocate the zoo from its aging, 94-year-old facility at Land Park to a larger site. Those efforts coincide with the zoo’s mission to have animals that it can conserve and also house additional animals that guests are most interested in viewing. An expanded zoo would also provide larger living spaces for the animals.
Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen said that Elk Grove is “well positioned” to provide space that would support a new zoo.
“Elk Grove has land that can support the growth and expansion that the zoo needs to survive and thrive as a regional attraction for the future,” she said. “The Sacramento Zoo has been a cultural education institution in our region for generations, and a new facility would allow them to inspire and connect more people with the natural world.”
Elizabeth Stallard, president of the zoological society’s board of trustees, told the Citizen that the Elk Grove site aligns with the zoo’s existence as a regional amenity.
Stallard noted that Elk Grove was considered following previous efforts to relocate the zoo in Sacramento.
“We reached out recently to the city of Elk Grove and we were thrilled to find out that they shared our enthusiasm for this project and for the possibility (what) an expanded zoo located in Elk Grove would bring – not just for animals, but for people, too,” she said.
Stallard referred to the need to relocate the zoo and expand it at a larger location as “urgent.”
“Animal care standards have improved, including the required minimum space requirement to keep animals in care in a zoological park,” she said. “All 14.7 acres here in (the Land Park area of Sacramento) have proved themselves to be insufficient. We’ve outgrown our space.”
The current zoo site also provides extremely limited parking for its guests.
Stallard added that there is a need to also continue to support the zoo’s “critical mission” of supporting conservation and education.
Sacramento Zoo has a long, rich history
The Sacramento Zoo is among the capital city’s most cherished institutions, having regularly drawn local and regional visitors to its site within Land Park since its opening in 1927.
Established with a collection of more than 40 animals, the zoo, which is located at 3930 Land Park Drive, opened in a relatively modest state within a 4-acre parcel at the southwest end of the park.
To support and raise funds for the zoo, the Sacramento Zoological Society was established in 1958.
Three years later, a major renovation project improved the zoo and doubled its size.
Eventually, the zoo outgrew its space and various larger, Sacramento area sites were considered for a relocation of the zoo.
Zoo officials also became worried that the zoo’s relatively small size could eventually result in a loss of its national accreditation, since the zoo is required to regularly expand its animal habitat spaces.
The Sacramento Zoo, which is home to about 500 native, rare and endangered animals, is one of more than 200 accredited institutions of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
The zoo board ultimately determined, in 2010, to maintain the zoo at its current site for the following 20 years.
However, in 2018, the zoo board unanimously voted to relocate the zoo from its current, 14-acre location to a 50- to 60-acre site, which would include additional land for an accompanying parking lot.
Among the Sacramento sites that were later evaluated were the former Sleep Train Arena property, North Natomas Regional Park, and Bing Maloney Golf Course.
Following nearly four years of exploring potential zoo sites in Sacramento without resolution, the zoo board inquired about the possibility of relocating the zoo to Elk Grove.
Stallard noted that future details of the potential zoo in Elk Grove will be regularly presented with transparency.
“We know the public is just as excited as we are, and people will be anxious to know more about our plans,” she said. “Transparency is a key value for both the city and the society, and we plan to update the public about our discussions as soon as possible and regularly throughout the process.”