Fresnans seek support for Chaffee Zoo tax renewal

The Fresno BeeJuly 10, 2014 

As dirt flies and shovels clank, a pair of East African Crowned Cranes decide they want no part of the groundbreaking ceremony of the Fresno Chaffee Zoo's new African Adventure exhibit in Roeding Park. The birds, part of the zoo's Winged Wonders Bird Show, were on hand as part of the festivities surrounding the long-awaited expansion project's groundbreaking. East African Crowned Cranes will be included in the new exhibit.

JOHN WALKER — FRESNO BEE FILE Buy Photo

Volunteers of the Keep Our Zoo campaign gathered Thursday at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo to drum up support for Measure Z on the November ballot.

Originally approved by voters in 2004, Measure Z levies a tenth-of-a-cent sales tax in Fresno, which is used to fund new exhibits, zoo staff and attractions.

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin is a supporter of the zoo and encourages voters to vote yes on Measure Z.

"We must keep our zoo," Swearengin said. "This is truly an amenity we're all proud of."

In 2004, Measure Z passed with 73% of the vote. One key figure in the measure's success was Angel Arellano.

When Arellano, then 9, first heard about the zoo being in danger, she wrote a letter to The Fresno Bee and included a $1 donation to help the zoo get back on firmer financial footing.

The published letter encouraged people of Fresno to donate to the zoo and to vote to support its funding.

Arellano, now 20, continues to support the place she loved as a child and worked at as a teenager.

"Working here helped me see how happy the zoo makes people," Arellano said.

Arellano said she hopes her story from a decade ago will motivate today's children to push for zoo funding.

Dennis Woods, chairman of the Keep Our Zoo event, said the zoo is a legacy Fresno should cherish.

"It's affordable for everyone," Woods said. "We're not here to pick your pockets, we're here to ask for your help."

Admission hasn't been raised for the zoo in 10 years and that will continue if Measure Z is renewed.

Also, the zoo plans to open new hippo, crocodile and penguin exhibits in November, projects that Measure Z made possible, said CEO and zoo director Scott Barton.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6140, smartin@fresnobee.com or @SharonBMartin on Twitter.

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