Parks commission approves zoo agreement

An agreement has been approved between the Friends of the Oleson Park Zoo and the city of Fort Dodge.

Under the formal agreement, Friends of the Oleson Park Zoo, the caretakers of the Oleson Park Zoo, will pay the mandatory state license fee. The city of Fort Dodge pays the zoo’s federal fee.

Jim Kramer, president of the Friends group, has signed off on the agreement, Lori Branderhorst, director of parks, recreation and forestry, said at a meeting of the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Commission Wednesday. It will be brought before the City Council for final approval on April 7.

“We did get clarification from the state of Iowa, from the assistant attorney general, that, yes, the state license needs to be paid,” Branderhorst said. “It does not matter who pays it. They don’t care if it’s the license-holder, or who filled it out. Just that it’s paid.”

“We’ll still apply for the license, but they will pay for it,” she said.

Steve Daniel, chairman of the commission, said that progress has been made toward improving the zoo, but “we’ve still got things to do,”

“Less is more is what we’re looking for, but we don’t want to strap them down so tight,” Daniel said.

“Our next step,” Branderhorst said, “is going to be coming up with a plan for taking those front cages down, developing habitats for the exotics, and trying to get some life into that pond and the forest again.”

In February, Branderhorst said the city should plan the new habitats with the advice of experts from other zoos and Iowa State University in Ames. She said the Friends group should take a leading role in raising the money to pay for building them.