More troubling news for regional arts and cultural non-profits. Staff writer Ralph Berrier Jr. takes a look at the challenges facing Mill Mountain Zoo. (The description of their problems reads eerily similar to what brought down Theater at Lime Kiln.)
Winter forcing Mill Mountain Zoo onto endangered list
The zoo is trying to raise its profile at a time when business is perilously slow.
By Ralph Berrier Jr.
The red wolves and red pandas soaked up the morning sunshine, shunning the shade they eagerly sought during summer. The brisk weather seemed to suit China the snow leopard, too, as she stretched out on the rocks in her exhibit.
“Isn’t she beautiful,” marveled Mill Mountain Zoo director Ray-Eric Correia, as he gazed at China on a recent morning.
The problem for Correia was that he was the only one strolling the grounds, even though the zoo was open for business. Winter can be a terrific time to observe many animals at Mill Mountain Zoo that prefer the bite of cold air to the heat of July. Cash-spending visitors, however, often go into hibernation this time of year.
Mill Mountain Zoo is about to enter another winter of discontent. It isn’t going to go quietly, however.
The perpetually cash-strapped zoo once again is taking steps to raise money and awareness of its budgetary needs. A publicity campaign, higher membership fees and slightly higher ticket prices are coming. The zoo has enough resources to make it through winter, Correia said, but one catastrophe — a water line break, a backed-up sewer or a damaging storm, for example — could knock the 60-year-old mountaintop menagerie out of business.
The zoo’s financial picture is bleaker than a prairie winter. That’s why Mill Mountain Zoo has enlisted the help of a Roanoke ad agency, local television and radio stations and a billboard company to promote the zoo and its place among Roanoke’s tourist attractions and cultural resources.