A future project agreement between Adams County and Denver Zoo likely means animals coming north sometime in the future — but not the kind that popped up at the County Building March 8.
Costume-clad performers atop stilts greeted officials from the Denver Zoo and Adams County as the two groups signed a letter of intent to build some sort of zoo-themed programming at the Riverdale Regional Park.
The performers, a lion and zebra from San Diego-based Animal Cracker Conspiracy, are regulars at the Adams County Fair and county officials brought them in to add some pizzazz to their press conference.
Similarly, the goal of the letter of intent is to bring some more interest to the Riverdale Regional Park.
“I personally would to love see elephants and giraffes roaming the park,” Acting County Manager Alisha Reis said. “And while that probably won’t be the case, any future opportunities for our families to see any animals at the park and enjoy programming there will be welcomed.”
But county and zoo officials remained vague about their plans, saying that discussions about what could come to Riverdale and when would start with the signing of the letter.
Deputy Interim County Manager Byron Fanning said he expects that if animals ever become part of the park, they’ll be Colorado natives.
“There might be an opportunity, potentially, for some exotic animals to come to the park if they need rehab or a bigger space to roam,” Fanning said. “But I imagine the featured animals would be bison and pronghorn, sheep — animals that would be native to Colorado. That’s what we are talking about today.”
The main idea is to extend the Denver Zoo’s reach across the Front Range, said Christine Adams, director of Communications for the zoo.
“Instead of just bringing our families to the zoo, we want to bring our programming and education to the people,” she said. “That’s really important to us.”
She said the behind-the-scenes work might be just as important.
“Also, there is habitat restoration,” Adams said. “They have done a lot of Russian Olive Tree removal work. We all know if you don’t have good habitat you don’t have good wildlife. So we can bring the expertise we have at the zoo here to complement the work they are already doing.”
It’s part of a wave of activity coming to the Riverdale Regional Park. The county broke ground last fall on a Veteran’s Memorial Park on the Mann-Nyholt Lake in the Regional Park. The Veterans Memorial was the latest addition to the expansion of Riverdale Regional Park, which now includes the Adams County Fairgrounds, Waymire Dome and the recently opened Riverdale Animal Shelter.
Fanning said the county has a similar agreement with the Denver Botanic Gardens and is hoping to create one with the Colorado Railroad Museum.
Fanning said there are multiple places around the park that could work for zoo properties, including the area south of Henderson Road and north of 120th, as well as along the west side of Park Boulevard.
“The Botanic Gardens is looking to do some farming with veterans, and that would tie closely with what we are doing at the Veterans Memorial,” Fanning said. “But the zoo, the thought is to bring that Colorado experience to Adams County. Families don’t have to drive to the mountains or to Denver to see something great, right in their backyard.”