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Oversight group praises fulfillment of zoo bond measure

Nov. 18, 2021, 1:24 p.m.
Topic: Animal well-being
Polar bear Nora in the pool at Polar Passage

In final report, citizen committee says zoo ‘successfully delivered on voter expectations’

The Oregon Zoo has successfully delivered on promises made in 2008, when the region’s voters approved a $125 million zoo bond measure promoting animal welfare and sustainability, a citizen oversight group reports.

At a meeting of the Metro Council today, the Oregon Zoo Bond Citizens’ Oversight Committee praised Metro and zoo staff for their effectiveness in implementing a host of projects made possible by the community-supported measure.

“The committee is pleased to report that throughout the thirteen years since the bond measure was approved by voters in November 2008, the bond funds were spent wisely, bond projects were completed on schedule and within budget, and the bond program successfully delivered on voter expectations,” wrote committee chair Susan G. Hartnett in a letter introducing the group’s final report.

The committee summarized its overall assessment in five main conclusions:

  1. Animal welfare was a top priority throughout the program, influencing all design and construction decisions, resulting in environments where the wildlife will thrive.
  2. Education and conservation goals were major drivers in the program, especially in the design of the new habitats; the Education Center, an award-winning building, will support these elements of the zoo’s mission for generations.
  3. The innovative sustainability project elements provide immediate benefits in reduced energy and water consumption and form the backbone of a new “greener” zoo infrastructure.
  4. The program was well managed with a high level of transparency and focus on the promised outcomes assuring the public’s trust was earned and maintained.
  5. The program delivered the promised projects within the bond’s financial parameters, using partnerships and sound financial decision making to achieve even more than originally planned.

All told, improvements made possible by the zoo bond measure transformed nearly 40% of the zoo’s 64-acre campus. To see video of the changes, go to

Even so, the committee noted, other parts of the zoo are still in need of updates.

“The new habitats for condors, elephants, polar bears, chimpanzees and black rhinos are state-of-the-art and provide environments where these endangered animals can thrive,” Hartnett wrote. “However, if you walk further you will find habitats in need of improvements, aged buildings in need of replacement, and infrastructure in need of upgrading. It is my sincere hope that the success of the 2008 bond inspires regional leaders and voters to continue addressing the needs of all the wildlife in our care.”

The Oregon Zoo Bond Citizens’ Oversight Committee — a group of local professionals with expertise in animal welfare, sustainability, public budgeting, campus planning, social equity and construction — “provides independent citizen review to help ensure the public’s money is well spent.”

To see the committee’s full report, visit