CLEARFIELD – Could a zoo be on the horizon for Clearfield County? If recreation and tourism officials have their way, the county will be on the short list of possible sites.
As of now, the Central Pennsylvania Zoological Society is looking at places between Altoona and State College on Interstate 99 once it is completed, but, according to Lauren Albright of the society, “We have not ruled anything out.”
The society is anticipating a 2012 opening for the zoo, which will require about 50 acres for construction and will have species represented from all seven continents.
One suggested site was the Wopsononock Natural Area outside of Viola.
“When they said between Altoona and State College, southern Clearfield County popped up in my mind,” said Sandy Fink-Barrett, Clearfield County Recreation and Tourism Authority director, at Wednesday afternoon’s meeting. She added that the site is only a few miles from I-99.
“Something like this would really change tourism in our area,” said Lisa Komidar, board member. “This is what the southern region really needs.”
Albright said the proposed zoo would be of the size of ZooAmerica at HersheyPark rather than larger ones such as the Pittsburgh Zoo. It will also be arranged to reflect the wildlife by continent rather than animal type (i.e., difided by Africa, North America, Asia, etc., rather than large cats, primates, etc.)
One definite is the acreage and public water and sewer service.
“We do want to have a good-sized buffer zone between the zoo and whatever is around it,” she said.
The zoo would serve those who live in Blair, Cambria, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Huntingdon, Indiana and Mifflin counties, an area with an estimated combined population of more than 720,000.
As far as Clearfield County goes, the commissioners are behind the project, with all three of them meeting with Albright Wednesday morning.
“This might be the kind of facility … that would draw families into the area for a day trip or a weekend,” said Mark McCracken, commissioner and CCRTA board member.
More information on the Central Pennsylvania Zoological Society can be found online.