Zoo organizers face deadline for funds

If a new zoological facility is to be built in Fruita, the group backing the idea will first need to raise a half-million dollars by the end of next year, according to an agreement with the city.

Grand Valley Zoological Quest envisions building an indoor rainforest and animal education center on the former site of two city wastewater lagoons near the Interstate 70 exit in Fruita and the Colorado River.

The city essentially said it will consider entering into a favorable lease with the zoo group for 10 acres at the former sewer lagoon site — but only if the organization can first meet a fundraising benchmark of $500,000 by Dec. 31, 2014.

The full zoo concept at buildout has an estimated cost of roughly $20 million.

“We’re so excited,” Dianna Fox, president of Grand Valley Zoological Quest, said after formalizing the framework of the agreement with the city this week.

The group won’t say specifically how much they’ve raised so far, but Fox said, “We’re on our way, but it is going to require much more intense fundraising here in the area.”

“We have done a lot of things in the past, but it’s been just to get the public notoriety. But from here on out we need to raise that money,” the organization’s director of education,  Tracy Barron, said.

Fox raised at least one idea for coming up with a large portion of the initial fundraising goal.

“The zoo’s name is up for grabs,” she said. “So if somebody wants to donate a large sum of money, they could be a benefactor of the project.”

Anyone interested in donating to the group can do so online, by searching for the group on either Google or Facebook, or by going directly to http://www.gvzooquest.org.

In the agreement, the city stresses that while it is willing to be strong backers of the project, further planning benchmarks will be critical in measuring whether the idea is indeed viable in the long run.

Assuming Grand Valley Zoological Quest meets the first fundraising test, the city still requires the group to produce a “viable fundraising plan, phasing plan, operational plan and construction timetable” for the rest of the project. Only then would Fruita enter into the long-term lease with the group.

Reclamation of the sludge lagoons on the property is ongoing and is expected to be completed by the end of this year.


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