It was early in 1992, just months after the mayoral election of Joe Ganim. I was working in the mayor’s office trying to help Ganim sort out the city’s financial madness. The city was in bankruptcy court, placed there by Ganim’s predecessor. Utilities were threatening to leave, UB law school was pulling out for Quinnipiac, violent crime had neighborhoods on alert, a state-mandated review board was in place to make sure the city’s budget was in balance, some city vendors had not been paid in a year. It was messy. Ganim went to Hartford to meet with Governor Lowell Weicker to discuss the possibility of the state buying the municipal airport to relieve financial pressure. Weicker threw Ganim a lovely curve ball.
“How’d the meeting go?” I asked Ganim by phone as he was driving back from Hartford. “Is Weicker going to buy the airport?”
“No,” said Ganim. “He wants to buy the zoo.”
Buying the zoo and transferring it to the Connecticut Zoological Society was an immediate fit for Weicker to help the city. An airport purchase required the state to deal with the complexities of the slow-moving Federal Aviation Administration that must approve of such a proposal. And so began Weicker’s quest to save Bridgeport from falling into the financial abyss. The state bought the zoo for $5 million and then added another $5 million for Beardsley Park. And then tens of millions more in slot money from a deal Weicker cut with the gaming nation at Foxwoods. Weicker did a bunch of other things as well such as taking over maintenance of the city’s train station, building a new Housatonic Community College Downtown, relocating Troop G Police Barracks from Westport to downtown Bridgeport and opening a governor’s office in the city. Oh, did we forget a personal income tax was kicking in to pay for a bunch of other things?
Thursday afternoon Governor Dannel Malloy toured Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo, the only such attraction in the state, that still relies on state support. In doing so Malloy was the first governor since Weicker to view up close the vitality of this destination point. State Rep. Auden Grogins, a huge zoo supporter, was instrumental in setting up Malloy’s visit.
News release from the zoo:
Governor Malloy Tours Connecticut’s Only Zoo to Commemorate Zoo’s 90th Birthday. State Rep. Grogins hosts first official visit by a governor in over two decades
As part of the zoo’s 90th birthday celebration throughout 2012, Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo welcomed Governor Dannel P. Malloy today. Bridgeport State Representative Auden Grogins (D-129) hosted the governor on his first visit to the state’s only zoo since taking office. Governor Malloy is the first sitting governor to visit the zoo in two decades.
“For centuries, Connecticut has been the home of literary greats, innovators and natural wonders–an incredibly diverse array of products and talent, all right here in Connecticut,” stated Governor Malloy. “Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo is one of the many attractions we have here that highlights our state’s rich history, culture and innovation. I encourage everyone to take advantage of the zoo’s many offerings.”
Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo is a premier family destination and one of the state’s top tourist attractions, welcoming over 280,000 visitors annually. The zoo is situated on 52 acres in historic Beardsley Park, which was designed by noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, famous for New York’s Central Park.
“The Beardsley Zoo is a tremendous tourist attraction and educational asset to the City of Bridgeport and the State of Connecticut. I am proud to be a strong advocate for the zoo, which enriches the lives of our children and residents every day,” Rep. Grogins said. “I want to thank Governor Malloy for taking the time to make this special visit to the zoo today and for his continued support of this wonderful organization.”
As part of its mission, Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo conducts educational programs that impact 20,000 students each school year, with more than 550 school groups visiting annually. Likewise, the zoo is involved in groundbreaking animal conservation efforts. Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo is home to the first Brazilian ocelot ever to have multiple pregnancies and kittens produced by artificial insemination. Similarly, the Zoo is the first accredited zoo in the northeast to welcome a Chacoan peccary piglet and was the first accredited zoo in the northeast to exhibit this endangered species.
“I want to thank Rep. Grogins for extending a gracious invitation to Governor Malloy to visit the state’s only zoo. In doing so the governor was able to witness first hand the educational, environmental, and recreational impact the zoo has on its guests,” explained Gregg Dancho, zoo director.
In honor of its 90th birthday, the zoo kicked off the “90 Days of Summer,” which continues through Labor Day weekend. A list of some of the summer promotions are featured below:
’90 Days of Summer’ Promotions*
Memorial Day, May 28 – Labor Day, September 3, 2012:
Mondays: Roll Back Monday – all admission prices roll back to only $9!
Tuesdays: $1 carousel rides
Wednesdays: Receive half price admission if you were born in the ’90s! MUST SHOW PROOF (Valid photo ID, birth certificate, passport, report card) Hint: If you were born in the ’90s, you’d be 12-22 years old.
Thursdays: If it’s a scorcher (over 90 degrees Fahrenheit), receive one free child admission with one paying adult.
Fridays: Be the 90th guest and get in FREE and receive a special gift just for you!
*NOTE: These offers do NOT apply to groups. Cannot be combined with any other discounts or coupons.
Birthday Bonus! As a gift to all Zoo visitors, anyone who comes to Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo on his or her birthday gets in free (Photo ID with birthday required. Valid through 12/31/12).
A complete calendar of events through Labor Day may be found at beardsleyzoo.org.
Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo is closer than you think and is open daily from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Adult admission (ages 12 & older) is $12.00, children (ages 3 -11) and senior admission (62 and older) is just $10.00, and children under 3 years old are free. Zoo members are also admitted free. Parking at the Zoo is free of charge. For information, call: (203) 394-6565. Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo is located at 1875 Noble Avenue, Bridgeport, Connecticut.
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About Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo
Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo celebrates its 90th birthday in 2012 and is closer than you think! Connecticut’s only zoo features 300 animals representing primarily North and South American species. Visitors won’t want to miss our Amur (Siberian) tigers, Brazilian ocelots, Red wolves, and Golden Lion tamarins. Other highlights include our South American rainforest with free-flight aviary, the prairie dog exhibit with “pop-up” viewing areas, the New England Farmyard with goats, cows, pigs, sheep, and other barnyard critters, plus the hoofstock trail featuring bison, pronghorn, deer, and more. Visitors can grab a bite at the Peacock Café, eat in the Picnic Grove, and enjoy a ride on our colorful carousel. For more information, visit www.beardsleyzoo.org.