City works toward advanced cougar facilities, welcome center
By Kris Leonhardt
MARSHFIELD – Wildwood Park & Zoo’s resident cougars came to Marshfield in October of 2008. At five months old, Star and Thunder grew from kits to adulthood in the confines of the zoo exhibit. Since their introduction, the siblings have outgrown the environment in which they live in size and engagement.
The Marshfield Parks & Recreation is working to change that as they introduce a campaign to not only enhance the cougar’s environment, but provide additional viewing and educational opportunities for visitors, along with increased amenities.
“Wildwood Park and Zoo has a long history of providing animal and environmental recreation and education. Their primary goal is to provide professional care of the animals. However, a secondary goal is to connect people to the environment through educational experiences,” said Parks & Recreation Director Justin Casperson.
With that in mind, the department has launched a fundraising campaign to reconstruct the current cougar exhibit to provide a larger, more complex area for the cougars, as well as a welcome center with improved viewing opportunities, educational areas, and increased public restroom facilities.
“The Cougar Exhibit and Welcome Center will be conveniently located near the most popular used areas of the zoo,” explained Casperson. “At almost 10 times larger, the exhibit will be interactive, and incorporate a more natural environment. With the heavy use of festivals and events, the restrooms will be ADA-accessible and accommodate the high traffic loads.
“There will be small animal exhibits and a children’s interactive water display feature. Elements of the water display feature will teach the importance of water quality and the water cycle. Also, the inside of the Welcome Center will offer a unique behind the scenes view of the cougar’s handling area.”
The anticipated cost of the project is $500,000. The city has budgeted $200,000 for the project and over $100,000 in private donations have already been raised, but more is needed to reach the goal.
“The positive effects of Cougar Exhibit and Welcome Center cannot be overstated,” Casperson added. “Investing in this project will support the local economy through recreation, tourism, and education. Floyd and Pat Hamus are strong supporters and partners in this project along with support from Charlotte Kruse, Groundwater Guardians, City of Marshfield, Marshfield’s Economic Development Board, and the Wildwood Zoological Society.”
For more information or to make a donation, contact Justin at 715-384-4642.