I've paid visits to the Little Rock Zoo since I was just a li'l Hawg, and was more than a bit concerned about the shape of the place on my last visit there. Indeed, the City of Little Rock has let the place run down over the past few years. While improvements have been made there, the good old zoo has a long way to go until it's the quality place I visited as a youngster.
Now, let me explain what's gone on around there. Before I get into this, let me preface my comments by mentioning they are biased as hell. I admit that freely. I hate that fat bastard Bill Clinton, his carpetbagging wife and everything those two con artists stand for. Having said that, let me tell y'all a little story.
Way on back in 1999, folks started plotting and scheming about how nifty it would be to have a Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock. The only problem was, raising private money for the humiliated president was a bit difficult. Indeed, most folks with serious cash were more interested in Frank Broyles' idea to improve the heck out of Razorback Stadium at the University of Arkansas, but that's another story.
So, Little Rock Mayor Jim Dailey got the dandy idea of passing a 1 percent sales tax to raise the cash to purchase land for the library. That initiative was beat down solidly by the voters, so another source of money was needed. And, where was that money found? That's right -- the Little Rock Parks and Recreation budget, which provides funding for the zoo.
So, while the zoo needed cash to retain its national accreditation, make some improvements and treat animals properly, the Little Rock mayor and City Council were busily snagging money to give to the Clinton Library. Good going, folks!
Fortunately, the Little Rock Zoo has improved in spite of the neglect it's suffered at the hands of the city. Why? Well, the public wants the zoo there and support it. The Friends of the Little Rock Zoo organization is strong and brings in some solid contributions for the beloved entity. Also, attendance at the zoo remains strong.
Having said all of that, what can one expect from a visit at the zoo? Simply put, it's a small zoo that's lacking some animals and is undergoing renovation. You've got your monkeys, tigers, giraffes, bears and the other expected critters, but there aren't as many of them as you'll find at zoos in, say, Memphis or Fort Worth.
Still, the place is great for families. My five-year-old son has no end of fun watching monkeys, creepy snakes in the reptile house and the fish on display there. And, of course, monkeys are a favorite of his.
Personally, my favorite display there is the male gorilla one, and that's just because of a sign warning visitors that the beast might throw objects at people in an attempt to protect his territory. The sign ends with the warning, "do not encourage him." That, folks, is just damn funny.
Also, the alligator exhibit has caused some trouble in the past. Indeed, the same stream that feeds through the alligator exhibit provides water hazards at the adjacent War Memorial Golf Course. That golf course, by the way, is one of the worst in the world -- some holes on the front nine are alongside University Avenue (one of the most populated streets in town) while some holes on the back nine are alongside Markham Avenue (another heavily-populated road). So, slicing a ball across University into the Sears parking lot is not uncommon. Anyway, there are signs on the golf course that warn duffers to "beware of alligator." Evidently, an alligators from the zoo have followed the stream to the golf course and have gotten loose on it. So, at War Memorial, you have a number of hazards to avoid, including traffic and alligators. Oh, and people park on the fairways when the Razorbacks play football in Little Rock. That's another story, however.
So, the Little Rock Zoo has been kicked in the teeth by the city, but has survived thanks to fans and a good charitable organization. If you live in the area, go and take your kids out there for a visit. I would caution folks against going in the afternoon when the weather is hot, however, as the animals tend to hide in the shade or in caves when the weather is hot.
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