High Speed Rail changes plans for Chaffee Zoo and Roeding Park

The latest plans for the High Speed Rail trains through Fresno has prompted changes in the proposed layout of Chaffee Zoo and Roeding Park.
November 7, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
The latest plans for the High Speed Rail trains through Fresno have prompted changes in the proposed layout of Chaffee Zoo and Roeding Park. Instead of cutting through the park, the train will take over a segment of Golden State Blvd. That means the proposed new Park and Zoo entrance on Golden State Blvd. will not be built. Fresno City Planner Sophia Pagoulatos briefed the City Council on the changes Thursday.

The biggest is that the Golden State entrance can no longer be constructed, so instead that would leave the two park entrances as they are today. At Olive Avenue and Belmont," Pagoulatos said.

The change shifts some other things around and will force the city to fill in, and then relocate four of the parks historic ponds and fountains. But the plan is to make the new ponds even more scenic.

It also means minor adjustments to the Fresno Chafee Zoo's planned Africa exhibit, which is expanding onto 21 acres on the Olive Ave. side of the park. Zoo director Scott Barton says it won't change what the zoo plans to offer.

"We're bringing back Lions, Cheetah's, Rhino's to the zoo, there will be a meerkat exhibit, and for the first time a breeding group of elephants at the zoo," Barton said.

Work on that project is expected to start by the first of the year. It's already been paid for with the countywide Measure Z sales tax. If voters extend the tax next year, Barton says more exhibits are planned.

"The entire expansion is 21 acres but African Adventure is about 12 to 13 of that to start. So there will be a second phase of Africa that we hope to bring back Hippos and Crocs and a bunch of animals," Barton said.

An advantage to the high speed rail line moving to Golden State is that a sound wall will be constructed to help block the noise of the high speed train, and the freight trains that are already using the adjacent tracks. In addition, the city says they are dropping the planned Golden State entrance, will shave millions off the city's costs and, given the park an extra acre or so of land.

But the changes mean the Environmental Impact Report and other documents related to the Zoo expansion into the park had to be altered and then re-approved. The Fresno City Council unanimously approved the changes at Thursday's meeting. The plans must also be approved by the city Planning Commission.


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