The demand for more activities and events inside the Hattiesburg Zoo is going to lead to a Kamper Park and splash pad expansion according to Hattiesburg Convention Commission Director Rick Taylor.
Taylor presented his fiscal year 2020 budget to the City Council for approval during the council’s meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 3. Taylor said the Hub City’s zoo, Saenger Theater and museums are expected to continue their growth.
“We project 4 percent growth,” he said, “with a 5.5 percent increase in self-generated funds. We are also projecting a 14 percent reduction in capital expenses.”
Of the 11 projects that the Convention Commission is planning, two areas are under consideration near the zoo – the Kamper Park Playground and the water play area.
“The zoo has generated substantial increase in demand for activities and attractions at Kamper Park and the zoo,” Taylor said. “As such, the Convention Commission is looking to expand the footprint of our work at the zoo by replacing the current playground with an expanded, more modern structure with safety turf floor. This activity would be free for all to use as the current playground is in the park.”
The splash pad also needs expanding, Taylor said.
“In addition, if you have been to the zoo on Saturday – especially in this weather – it is standing room only in the splash pad,” he said. “Kids don’t have room to run; they just kinda stand in the water. Parents just sit around the edge and watch them stand there. We have identified that we should install a little more robust water play area. We’re looking to do that to accommodate demand. We are going to make this a ticketed entry activity that will make more admission.”
Taylor said insurance and marketing costs are expected to increase by $61,000.
“This is based on the number of people who visit our attractions,” he said. “For the first time, we have brought on board a full-time security and safety manager. We want to do some practicing with (Hattiesburg Police Department) in our facilities.”
With possible accreditation for the zoo, Taylor said other additions are needed.
“In that process, we have had inspectors come to view,” he said. “They talked to us about what the zoo needs to move forward as we grow, especially if we bring in larger animals like giraffes.”
Taylor said three positions are critical to elevating the zoo’s prominence and professionalism: a staff veterinarian, a wildlife curator, and a horticulturist.
LINK: KAMPER PARK ZOO