Good news is expected this morning at Smithsonian National Zoological Park, also known as the National Zoo. Officials have called a press conference to announce plans for the “fate” of the popular Kids’ Farm and pizza playground. The wording here is important, considering the last official press release on these popular family destinations declared their closing all but done.
All indications are that officials will unveil a lineup of deep-pocketed sponsors, or at least deeper-pocketed than the federal government, which is responsible for the budget cut that endangered these areas in the first place.
Good news is a good bet not just because press have been promised this morning’s event will include a “parade,” of Kids’ Farm residents — alpacas, goats, donkeys, rabbits, and chicken. It’s also because such an announcement has been expected for weeks. In May, a spokeswoman told me the Zoo was in late-stage talks with a group of sponsors who would pick up the tab for maintenance costs over the next five years. Apparently the deal revolves around one major donor.
Costs for maintaining the areas have been estimated to be about $250,000 annually for the Kids’ Farm and another $60,000 to rehab the play area. (Perhaps another few bucks can go toward more obvious signs informing parents that the play area is for small children, not rambunctious older children. But that’s another post.)
After the Smithsonian’s initial announcement that the areas would close, a group of local parents mobilized, staging protests, fundraisers and an online campaign. Though the group raised only a few thousand dollars, some of it in spare change from children, officials acknowledged that those families have been instrumental in today’s developments.
“In response to the public outcry, the Zoo and several partners began searching for different solutions to save the beloved exhibit,” said the Zoo statement announcing the press conference. Stay tuned.