Zoo gets ready for zebras, guests and events

Council authorizes improvements at Pine Grove Zoo

By Terry Lehrke, News Editor

The Pine Grove Zoo in west Little Falls will open for the season Monday, April 15. In addition to welcoming guests, zoo staff and Friends of the Pine Grove Zoo will be working toward revamping the deer building in anticipation of two zebras.

Add to that the construction of a pavilion near the “Cougar Cafe,” to provide shade and protection for guests, the zoo will be a busy place as it readies for its 100th anniversary.

Marnita Van Hoecke told the Little Falls City Council that the deer building remodel would consist of removing two walls to make one large building. The perimeter walls of the deer building will remain in place, but insulation will be added to the ceiling and walls.

Zebras, Van Hoecke explained, are from Africa. “They don’t appreciate our Minnesota winters,” she said. “Heaters are in place as per the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) requirements,” she said.

Improvements to the deer building to make it ready for the zebras will be paid for by the Friends of the Pine Grove Zoo (FPGZ) and the Little Falls Exchange Club, and then donated to the city at no cost to the city, said Van Hoecke.

March 22, the FPGZ held its “Zoo Gone Wild” event, and raised $3,497 for the zebras. “So we’re about just about $1,400 short from raising enough money for both zebras,” said Van Hoecke. “We can get one male and 3/4 of the female,” she said.

The pavilion will be a 28-foot by 24-foot elongated hexagon shape, because Van Hoecke said the zoo was “allergic to corners.”

She said Tri-City Paving was donating the concrete for the construction, Royalton Lumber was helping with the pavilion and several civic organizations were willing to donate funds and the labor would be furnished by FPGZ.

Van Hoecke said preparations are under way for the zoo’s 100th anniversary celebration Saturday, June 8.

“Admission will be 100 pennies,” she said. “And, no, we’re not going to count all the pennies.”

She said a lot will be going on that day, with the Two Cylinder Club having a display, antiques and collectibles, music and more.

The more is a visit by the Minnesota Raptor Center.

“Royalton Lumber was very kind and generous and they’re not only going to donate toward the pavilion, but have completely sponsored for the Minnesota Raptor Center to come in,” said Van Hoecke.
“We will have the very first inhabitants of the zoo — great horned owls — along with an eagle and other raptors.”

In September, the Pine Grove Zoo will play host to the Mid-America Zoo Conference.

“It’s a big deal. Zoos from nine states are coming in,” she said.

“We’re going to show off our zoo. The last time they saw it, we didn’t have the main building, we had part of a bear exhibit, didn’t have a cafe and whole host of other things,” she said.

As always, the season will wrap up with the annual Zoo Boo.

The Council authorized the remodeling of the deer building, as well as the construction of the pavilion.