Council nears approval of Chaffee Zoo expansion

FRESNO, Calif.

The nine to ten million dollars a year collected since 2004 has paid for improvements, but the expansion into Roeding Park has been stalled, it's up to the Fresno City Council to get things moving.

Zoo supporters urged the Fresno City Council on Thursday night, to give an Environmental Impact Report on Zoo expansion a yes vote.

Arthur Gonos of Fresno got a big round of applause from the audience when he told the Council; "You will do something really positive for the city of Fresno and approve the proposals before you, thank you."

5th grader Mattie Parks of Reedley said the Zoo is educational; "I may never in my life get to go to Africa, but the new expansion will let me get up close to the animals."

But lawyers have come up with a variety of challenges, and Bruce Roeding, who is a great grandson of Frederick Roeding, see the zoo expansion as a threat to the trees planted by his family.

"Older trees like older people, require more care." He said. Roeding fears expanding the Zoo by 20 acres could endanger 800 trees. He told the Council Members, "The future of Roeding Park is in your hands."

But Roeding lives in the Bay Area. The Roedings left Fresno and started a nursery business in Fremont back in the 1930's.

Ruth Todd, a historian hired by the city, says the Roeding family ended their relationship with the park that bears their name, long ago.

"It was actually in 1923 that George Roeding resigned from the Parks Commission after an argument over Roeding Park, and his resignation clearly marks the end of the family's official involvement in the park."

Council members indicted their support for the expansion.

Council President Lee Brand said; "This expansion the entire zoo is one of the few amenities we have in this town."

And Zoo Director Scott Barton says once the report is approved, work on the first big project, a new Sea Lion exhibit could start within weeks. "As of today we have over 40 million dollars ready to start doing these projects, these beautiful new zoo exhibits."

The City Council is expected to approve the impact statement next week. Attorneys for the Roeding family and a group called Save Roeding Park are looking at their legal options.

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