SALT LAKE CITY -- After a long three years, Utah's Hogle Zoo has a playground again.
The new playground is located right next to the lighthouse splash zone and the boardwalk over Emigration Creek, and staff says the new park is bringing zoo visitors closer to nature than ever before.
“Today here we are at the ribbon cutting of a brand new place, making Hogle Zoo even better,” said Karen Hale, Chief Administrative Officer for Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams.
Craig Dinsmore, Executive Director of Hogle Zoo, says after three years' worth of messages, letters and other feedback, visitors will be able to enjoy a playground again.
“This has always been in our master plan, but to get here we first had to tear down an old playground in order to make room for our African Savannah project, and I didn't realize the impact of that move,” he said.
The $2.5 million project is nature themed, with a tree house, slides, spider web netting, swinging vines and rickety bridges.
“So far, I really like it,” zoo visitor Grant Hyleman said.
Alyssa Moulton, a parent and zoo visitor, agreed.
“We love all the little areas here, the wood chips, the low rope swings he was enjoying, the slides with some nice speeds to go down them," she said.
Liz Poole, a field trip leader, said the new playground is a safer environment.
“They don’t have to worry about hurting themselves,” she said. “The old playground, we'd burn ourselves on the slide or something, but they don't have to worry about that now.”
The playground also makes way for children who may not be able to experience the adventure in the same way.
“The sensory wall is designed to be totally accessible, and for any of those kids who might be on the autism spectrum or have any complications in life, it's a place to have sensory activities and experiences that are easy access,” Dinsmore said.
Another important element is the Wyatt Fricks Discovery Theater, which is named for a boy who lost his life at a young age. The theater invites children to explore nature in an interactive way while getting up close and personal with small animals.
“Wyatt was a little boy who loved the zoo and loved animals, so this is the perfect tribute to his life,” Dinsmore said.
Zoo officials said the project did not require any use of tax funds, as it was generated entirely through contributions and earned revenue.
For more information about the zoo’s new playground, click here.