Community invited to help shape zoo's next big project

August 5, 2014 - 4:49pm

Survey responses will guide design of new conservation education center

The Oregon Zoo wants to know how you connect with nature.

As the zoo begins designing its next major campus improvement — a new conservation education center slated to open in spring 2017 — a survey launched today aims to better understand Pacific Northwesterners' relationship with the outdoors.

"This is a great time for our community to tell us what's important to them," said Grant Spickelmier, the zoo's education curator. "We've determined some of the basic features of the center, but at this early stage we're exploring a lot of exciting ideas. We want the center to reflect the desires of the people who will be using it."

Take the survey here

Zoo officials are hoping for a variety of responses from across the community to help guide the design of buildings, gardens, displays and programs offered.

"We want to know how people of the region connect with nature and how we can encourage that connection," Spickelmier said. "We want to make sure we're providing our visitors with tools and support to explore nature and take action on behalf of the natural world."

Located in the area opposite the zoo's Amur tiger habitat and adjacent to the train station, the center will provide a welcoming entry and staging area for the 200,000 children who participate in zoo camps and classes each year. While increasing and improving space for these popular programs, the new center is also intended to expand the capacity of conservation education across the Portland metro region, serving as a resource for the zoo's partners in conservation education, including the Intertwine Alliance and the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service.

Highlights of the space include a reimagined insect zoo and an interactive conservation-care lab. Visitors will learn how zoo scientists care for endangered animals and view the zoo's species-recovery lab, where rare western pond turtles are raised for release into the wild. Plans also call for an outdoor plaza with a learning garden, food and beverages and play areas for children. A flexible auditorium space will accommodate up to 150 people for lectures, documentary screenings and other conservation-focused community events.

Early design concepts for the center will be on display at the zoo Aug. 12-16. Zoo visitors can view building and garden designs in progress Sept. 13-20.

The center is the fifth of eight major projects funded by a bond supported by metro area voters in 2008. The zoo has completed a veterinary medical center, an improved water system for Humboldt penguins and a new California condor habitat. Elephant Lands, the new habitat for zoo's Asian elephant family, is under construction and due to open in 2015.

The design process launched earlier this summer; schematic designs are scheduled to be completed by late October. The zoo will break ground on the new center in fall 2015 with a grand opening scheduled for spring 2017.

The project design team for the new center is led by Opsis Architecture of Portland and Jones & Jones Architects of Seattle, with interpretive components by IQ Magic of Santa Monica, Calif. The construction contractor for the project is Portland-based Fortis Construction.