Roeding family speaks out about Chaffee Zoo expansion

FRESNO, Calif.

Fresno's Roeding Park sits on 148 acres in West Central Fresno. While thousands visit the park every year to take advantage of its natural beauty, animals inside the 18 acre Chaffee Zoo call it home. But the zoo's plan to expand and double in size has now sparked a debate between the city and the park's original benefactors.

Monday night, George C. Roeding, III addressed members of the city's Historic Preservation Commission. Roeding is an arborist and said more than 800 trees would be destroyed if the zoo expands as planned. An attorney representing Mr. Roeding and the local organization, Friends of Roeding Park, said the city's plans to relocate the trees and the park's ponds aren't enough. "The integrity and the design of the historic significance of the park is a whole. You can't start cannibalizing it and taking it apart," said attorney Richard Harriman.

Commission members also raised concerns about the expansion's impact on history, as they discussed comments to be included in the final environmental impact report. "If you lose the trees, you've lost the park ... I have some concerns about the number and in a general sense, did not believe that the mitigation was significant to cover the loss of that amount of trees," said commission member Don Simmons.

The expansion would be funded my Measure Z, a bond measure approved by voters in 2004. But there is a dispute among the proposition's intent. The attorney for Friends of Roeding Park said the community voted for enhancements within the zoo's current footprint. The zoo's CEO said the proposition called for the return of larger animals, that need more space. "Our entire intent is to serve this community, to give this community what they voted for, to serve the hundreds of thousands that come to the zoo, Rotary Storyland and Playland, and the park," said Barton.

The Belmont entrance to Roeding Park would also be closed as part of the zoo's expansion plans. The Fresno Historic Preservation Commission voted to continue their discussion to their meeting next month. The Fresno City Council will likely vote on the final environmental report early next year.

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