Como Zoo Reopens This Week
Thursday, July 23, 2020 3:30 PM

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Como Zoo welcomes back the public on Wednesday, July 29. Como Town amusement park also opens July 29.

A lot of things will be different, says Michelle Furrer, director of Como Park Zoo and Conservatory. Zoo attendance will be limited to 250 at a time. Visitors will have to make reservations. They’ll have to follow a designated route, wear face masks, and maintain social distancing. They’ll have to do without any onsite programming or rental equipment. The usual corps of volunteers won’t be around to answer questions and provide directions.

But the animals will all be waiting, as they have been since the coronavirus pandemic forced the Zoo to close to the public more than four months ago. “March 16 was a really hard day,” Furrer says. “We’ve had really hard days since. We miss our visitors -- it’s why we do what we do. So reopening is scary. But we have a good plan in place.”

Volunteers and members of Como Friends will provide a “test run” on July 27-28 before the grounds open to the public at large.

Conservatory provides the model
The Zoo’s in-person restrictions are similar to what the adjacent Marjorie McNeely Conservatory has been using successfully since it reopened on June 22. Visitors can stay as long as they want, but they must reserve the 30-minute time slot in which they will enter. Visitors will enter from Cleveland Court and follow a designated route, similar to the old Zoo Boo, before leaving through the Visitors Center. At least for the first few weeks, the Zoo will be open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. every day.

One thing definitely won’t change: Admission is still free (though donations are still encouraged – crowds have disappeared, but operating costs have not).

How will animals react?

Furrer and zookeepers are curious about how animals will react to having visitors back. “We’ve been watching that very closely,” she says. When the Zoo closed, many animals – especially the great apes and giraffes – had clear reactions to the changes in their daily routine. So zookeepers increased their enrichment activities. “Now,” she says, “the animals have gotten used to the quietness. It’s unnerving when you’re walking through the Zoo on your own and you’re getting all their attention.”

In the last few weeks, Furrer says, zookeepers have increased the animals’ activities to prepare them for having visitors back. “Some will have a positive reaction; we will monitor those who have negative reactions.” Most staff have been wearing face masks since Day One of the shutdown, so she doesn’t expect seeing people in masks to be a problem for animals.

With the Zoo closed, fans have had to stay in touch primarily through Como Live, a video stream that runs weekdays at 1:30 p.m. Como Live will continue through the end of December, though timing may change, Furrer says. “We need to make sure we’re not filming in a way that draws a crowd.”

Looking ahead

  • Como Town opens expects to open Wednesdays-Sundays through the end of the season. The amusement park will open for four specific, 80-minute time slots each day: 10 and 11:30 a.m., then 1 and 2:30 p.m. After each session, it will shut down for cleaning before admitting new customers. Attendance will be limited; admission is $13.
  • Across the street, Como Park Mini-Golf continues to open daily at 10 a.m.
  • At this point, it is unclear whether Cafesjian’s Carousel will reopen in 2020.

District 10 Como Community Council | 1224 Lexington Pkwy N, Saint Paul, MN 55103 | 651.644.3889 | district10 [at] district10comopark.org

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