The community rallies around the zoo
By Kris Leonhardt
The Wildwood Zoo continued to grow larger and more diverse, eventually becoming the fourth largest zoo in the state. As the zoo grew, so did the community’s support of the city park.
With limited funds and resources within the city, clubs and organizations began to rally around the zoo. While fortunate to have a zoo in the budding city, residents realized that they must chip in and help to meet the growing demands of the area attraction.
Local organizations crafted ideas on how to drive traffic to the zoo and began working with the city to make improvements and additions.
The Central Wisconsin Sportsmen’s Club stocked the ponds at Wildwood Park & Zoo, adding schools of game fish for sport, while the Marshfield Lions took on a much larger project.
Learning of a miniature train and track for sale in Allentown, Pennsylvania, the group approached city leaders in regards to purchasing the system for the Wildwood Zoo.
After obtaining the city’s blessing, club members traveled to Pennsylvania to look at the train. Seeing the train as a viable project for the Lions Club, it was purchased and brought back to Marshfield for restoration.
Returning the train to its former glory, the Lions went back to the city and discussed plans for installation in the zoo. However, when the city attorney learned of the planned train installation, the project came to abrupt halt.
After hearing that the Lions Club would need to control and assume full legal liability for the operation of the train, the project was halted.
The train sat in storage for nearly 20 years before it was sold to an out-of-state venture.
The largest form of community assistance came in July 1973 when Charlotte Kruse led a movement to aid and provide for the park and zoo. After assembling an 18-strong board of directors, the Wildwood Park Zoological Society was formed.
The society continues its support of Wildwood Park & Zoo, creating programs and events that generate public interest and raise needed funds.
One of their more recent developments was the addition of the Zoo Store, now found between the cougar exhibit and the eagle/owl exhibit. Over the past four years, society volunteers have operated the store all summer long, welcoming and assisting visitors while raising funds for zoo projects.
Kris Leonhardt may be contacted by mail at P.O. Box 51, Marshfield, WI 54449 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.