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Franklin Park Zoo to celebrate its 100th birthday

Posted by Patrick Rosso  October 1, 2012 01:17 PM

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bear dens at Franklin Park Zoo - MUST credit Historic New England.jpg

(Image courtesy Historic New England)

The now abandoned bear pens at the Franklin Park Zoo.

A hundred years ago the cages and the zoo keeping philosophy might have been different but the Franklin Park Zoo was still an important part of the community.

Now a century later, the zoo is getting ready to celebrate its 100th birthday and although many things have changed, the location and the commitment to providing area residents with a chance to see some wild animals hasn’t.

“As I look back probably the lasting impact [the zoo made] is the building of family memories,” said John Linehan, CEO of the Franklin Park Zoo.

Although Linehan may be running the show now, he started working at the zoo over 30-years ago as a laborer, allowing him to watch the zoo develop.

Whether it be shoveling animal droppings or educating guests about all the animals who call Franklin Park home, Linehan has watched the zoo and the mission shift and evolve from a sightseeing destination to community resource.

“I really hope the biggest impact going forward is the zoo as an educational resource,” said Linehan, who started working at the zoo when he was 21. “It’s shifted away from being about entertainment. People didn’t understand the needs of animals a hundred years ago. Zoo keeping in the past hundred years has realized that zoos serve a bigger purpose.”

With the emphasis on education, the zoo’s accreditation in 1989, and the switch from a state run institution to a non-profit in the 1992, the zoo has been shaping young minds and even those of its workers over the years.

“The importance of the zoo in wildlife conservation is dramatically different, we’re influencing people into have a sensitivity to natural life and the animals,” said Linehan. “The employees use to be here because it was a good state job. Now the vast majority [of employees] are impassioned about the mission and caring for the animals.”

The zoo has been celebrating its birthday throughout the year but the official birthday bash will be held Oct. 6 when the zoo will swing open its iron gates for a day of fun and celebration.

There will be games, tours and even a giant birthday card for participants to sign, wishing the animals and their keepers a happy birthday.

To find out more about Saturday’s birthday party, click here.

While a hundred-years seem like a milestone, Linehan is confident that the zoo will be around to celebrate its bicentennial, with zoo officials even burying a time capsule so that in 2112 visitors can see what a zoo was like in 2012.

“We really concentrate on guest experience,” said Linehan. “We want to make sure people are enjoying themselves but are also taking something valuable from the experience.”

To find out more about the zoo, rates and upcoming events, including an upcoming discussion about the zoo’s past, present and future, click here.

Email Patrick D. Rosso, Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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