JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s been three years since Hurricane Irma caused destruction in our area and the Jacksonville Zoo is still feeling the effects.
Its' docks were destroyed in the storm, but its' now submitted plans to rebuild.
The @jacksonvillezoo is still feeling the effects from #hurricaneirma. The storm took out 50 trees & it lost part of the dock. Now it’s applying for grants to rebuild. Did you know Jax Zoo was the only zoo in the country that had an admission gate on the water? So neat! @wjxt4 pic.twitter.com/LHTxHbth27— Brittany Muller (@BrittMullerNews) October 15, 2020
But it all comes down to funding. The Jacksonville Zoo told News4Jax it’s about a $1 million project and it could take a few more years to rebuild the docks.
“That was a heartbreaking storm for us,” said Tony Vecchio, Jacksonville Zoo Executive Director.
Vecchio said it was the only zoo in the country that had an admission gate on the water.
“We valued it as a very unique experience for people to come on their boat to the zoo,” said Vecchio.
With the docks inaccessible for the last three years, Vecchio says FEMA will take cover most of the cost, but not all. That why he’s applied for funding through the Florida Inland Navigation District.
“We didn’t get that this year hopefully we can go back to that and get it next year,” said Vecchio.
Irma took out at least 50 trees and wiped out the middle section of the docks. The Zoo is relocating the docks to make it more accessible and will be built on the southeast corner of the property. The concrete piers are already in place and they do not have to dredge which will save the zoo a lot of money.
“But it’s a little far from the main path, so part of the funding part of the conditioning we have to build a walkway and connect the dock to the main path of the zoo,” said Vecchio.
Without the grant, the project is on hold for the meantime.
Vecchio said once the new docks are built, they are looking to restart its kayak program.
They are also looking for other sources of funding and if they do, they could start building the docks sooner.