Oneida County Provides $300,000 to Assist Utica Zoo Achieve Accreditation

Two-Year Allocation Will Help Pay Deferred Maintenance Costs

Oneida County will provide $300,000 to the Utica Zoo over a two-year period to help pay for deferred maintenance and rehabilitation costs that will enable the regional asset to achieve accreditation from the Associations of Zoos and Aquariums.

Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. requested the supplemental appropriation be allocated last month, and the Board of Legislators approved the measure on Wednesday.

“The Utica Zoo has been serving the region for more than 100 years, educating the children of our county and bringing joy to families near and far,” Picente said. “The zoo has made unprecedented strides to correct its financial situation and put itself on a path of growth that will benefit the entire Mohawk Valley. In order to take the next step in its aggressive master plan, it needs our help to supplement the cost of more than 20 years of deferred maintenance to secure its long-sought accreditation. Oneida County is happy to invest in the Utica Zoo to help it achieve this goal.”

The special funding will be split in disbursements of $150,000 over the next two years and is derived from unanticipated revenue in the county’s appropriated fund balance.

The Utica Zoo submitted its accreditation application to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums on Feb. 24 and that agency will conduct its physical inspection of the facility this summer. The zoo must complete its maintenance and rehabilitation efforts prior to inspection to secure accreditation.

“The Utica Zoo staff, board and volunteers are cognizant of the revitalization and excitement surrounding Oneida County and the Greater Mohawk Valley Region,” said Utica Zoo Executive Director Andria Heath. “We are thrilled to contribute to this resurgence by being a tourist destination, provider of quality of life for local residents and an employer whose full-time workforce has grown by 19 new positions since 2010. It is only through the vision, leadership and support of our partners in Oneida County that we can accomplish this coveted accreditation with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which will help us make great strides in realizing our potential.”

“I am pleased that this award will improve and enhance what is already an important asset to not just the city and county, but the whole region as well,” said County Legislator Edward P. Welsh, R-19, Utica. “This proactive investment to boost the visitor experience is a step to better position the zoo for the future as it pursues accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and implements a new master plan.”

“Our zoo is an incredible facility that provides year-round entertainment for our community,” said county Legislator Emil R. Paparella, R-23, Utica. “The zoo provides services that are vital to our quality of life and I am pleased to support our efforts to increase the economic and educational impact the zoo has on our region.”

“The zoo provides education to our children and entertainment for our families and those two things are the bedrock of a healthy and growing community,” said County Legislator Rose Ann Convertino, D-22, Utica, said. “I’ve always advocated investing in our zoo, and I’m very excited about this investment. As precious as our zoo is, I know we could do a lot to make it an even better place for tourism, family and culture. I will fight until we completely realize the amazing vision of the zoo’s entire ‘Dream Big’ master plan.”