Kids’ Farm at National Zoo could be spared

July 19, 2011

A few months ago, it looked as if Tulip, Lucy and other four legged residents of the Kids’ Farm at the National Zoo might be looking for a new home. Zoo officials announced last winter that the barnyard exhibit would be shuttered — a victim of a difficult budget year.
Now it looks as if the attraction — which features pygmy goats, cows, pigs and other barnyard residents along with the Giant Pizza Playground — will not close after all.

Zoo officials are expected to announce Wednesday that someone — and they won’t say who — has stepped forward to help pay for the upkeep and maintenance of the Kids’ Farm and playground.

Former congressman Ralph Regula (R-Ohio), who was instrumental in helping establish Kids’ Farm in 2004, is among those expected to be on hand for the announcement on the farm’s future.

Word that the zoo had targeted Kids’ Farm for closure drew protests from D.C. area parents, who said the farm was one of the few exhibits at the zoo geared to babies and toddlers.

Zoo officials had estimated that it would cost about $250,000 a year to maintain the Kids’ Farm. Replacing the equipment in the much-loved but well-worn pizza playground would cost about $60,000.

But fans of the farm were not deterred. D.C. mom Jamie Davis Smith launched a Facebook group, Save the Petting Zoo & Pizza Playground at the National Zoo, and in February staged a “pet-in” that attracted 75 Kids’ Farm fans from throughout the area.

The group also organized a fundraiser in May that featured the Great Zucchini, one of Washington’s top preschool entertainers. The group had hoped to raise $2,000; they ended up raising $3,400.

The amount was a far cry from what was needed to maintain the exhibit, but Davis Smith said the turnout might have helped convinced zoo officials and potential sponsors that it was worth saving.
“It’s been quiet on this page for a while, but things continue to look promising,” Davis Smith posted on Facebook this month.

Davis Smith said she planned to attend Wednesday’s announcement.

“I don’t know what it is, but we’re excited and looking forward to hearing more,” she said.

Lori Aratani writes about how people live, work and play in the D.C. region for The Post’s Transportation and Development team.
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