Seal of Dane County County of Dane
County Executive's Office

Dane County, Henry Vilas Zoological Society Announce Expanded Partnership

September 28, 2009
Joshua Wescott, Office of the County Executive (608) 267-8823 or cell (608) 669-5606; Boris Frank, Henry Vilas Zoological Society (608) 258-9490
County Executive

Generosity of Zoological Society Supports Free Zoo in Tough Economic Times

Members of the Henry Vilas Zoological Society joined Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk today to announce an expanded partnership that means more private support for the county’s free zoo.

Under the new partnership between the county and zoological society, the zoological society is greatly increasing the financial assistance it provides to help cover operating expenses at the Henry Vilas Zoo for both 2009 and 2010.  Since 2002, the Zoological Society has contributed at least $50,000 annually to operating costs at the zoo.  The Zoological Society has also led extensive fundraising efforts for capital improvement projects like the new Aviary, North American Prairie and new and improved children’s zoo area including the Conservation Carousel.

Thanks to the generosity of the Zoological Society, it will contribute $350,000 toward operating expenses at the zoo this year and is committed to providing an additional $558,000 for 2010.  Those dollars will allow the zoo to hire additional staff members to not only better care for the animals but also better serve the growing number of visitors to the zoo.

“These historically difficult economic times require creative problem solving and our friends at the Zoological Society are so generously answering that call and making sure our zoo continues to receive the support it needs,” Falk said.  “Many thanks to the Zoological Society for this great news to help keep our zoo fabulous and free; and it comes at a time when more kids and families than ever are visiting the zoo.  Our free zoo is a tremendous popular attraction as families choose getaways closer to home in these historically difficult economic times,” Falk added.  

The Zoological Society is committed to assuring the highest quality of care for animals at the zoo,” Board President Mary Romolino said.  “These special funds have been provided by our visitors from concessions and gift shop profits and carousel and train rides.  The Society is fortunate, because of the generosity of the hundreds of thousands of people who visited the zoo this year, to be able to contribute funds that will assure the zoo’s continued operation at current levels,” she added.

“Zoo neighbors and patrons should thank the Zoological Society for stepping up and helping continue top notch service, safety, and animal welfare at the zoo,” said Supervisor Chuck Erickson, a member of the Zoo Commission and representative of the neighborhood. “In these tight budget times, the Society is increasing contributions to help make this possible and we appreciate their support and leadership.”

Falk announced today that 2009 attendance at the zoo continues to set records.  The Henry Vilas Zoo is nearing 700,000 visitors for the year, a 20% increase over just a year ago.

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