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Council OKs improvements to Brit Spaugh Park, zoo
new deh more city park improvements pic
The south end of Brit Spaugh Park will see some improvements under a plan approved by the Great Bend City Council Monday night. The project involves moving fences and adding sidewalks. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

 Wine-tasting events OKed for zoo

Rotarians to call attention to victims of disasters and hunger


Wine will be coming to the Great Bend Zoo after the Great Bend City Council Monday night approved the holding of two wine-tasting events at the facility. 

First, it OKed a motion allowing the Great Bend Rotary Club to serve wine at the “Bears, BBQ, Wild Beasts and Wine” event at the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo on the evening of May 1.

The zoo wine tasting will be from 6-10 p.m. Wine will be provided and served by Rosewood Wineries, under their license.

Each year, Rotarians from across the state gather in the city of the current district governor. This year, the gathering will be here in Great Bend since the governor is Roger Marshall. 

In addition, the council approved a request from NexTech to hold a “Wine in the Wild” event at the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo from 6-9 p.m. Sept. 26. A representative of NexTech said they will serve and sell wine.

This will be a fundraiser for the zoo with tickets costing $30 for individuals and $50 for couples. The goal is to attract a new group of supporters to the facility and raise $5,000 in the first year.

In a matter related to the Rotary Club event, the council also approved motions authorizing the organization to display two of their “Shelter Boxes” and set up a “Fork the Yard” display at Jack Kilby Square from April 30 to May 3.

Shelter Box is an official partner of Rotary. The company provides 2x3-foot box contains a tent that will house 10 people, and all the supplies a family might need to survive for several weeks. These boxes have been used in Hurricane Sandy, the Oklahoma tornadoes, and around the world.  

Fork the Yard is an event that brings attention to the 2,600,000 children that die each year from starvation. There will be 2,600 (plastic) forks in the court yard lawn, each fork representing 1,000 kids. 

The club will be asking the youth of Great Bend to come place the forks. 

 In an effort to return Brit Spaugh Park and the Great Bend Zoo to their former glory and to make them more walker friendly, the City Council Monday night approved a plan to relocate much of the fencing enclosing the facilities and make improvements to the walking paths.

Following up on suggestions from council members, Human Resource Director Terry Hoff, Public Lands Director Scott Keeler and City Administrator Howard Partington met and discussed improvements to the south portion of the park. Those ideas were presented Monday.

Basically, much of the eight-foot fence that encompasses the southern and western end of Brit Spaugh (including the big, southern-most pond) will be moved inward. This will open more existing sidewalks and allow for the construction of additional walking paths, as well as shelters offering more areas to view zoo animals.

“We don’t see a downside to it,” Partington told the council. 

The expanded area outside the fence will be accessible whenever the park is open (from 6 a.m. to midnight) every day). As it is now, the area is only available during zoo hours (9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily, except for holiday closings).

Keeler said there were a number of reasons to make a change. The project will make the south entrance of the park look better and it will make it safer for walkers by providing a sidewalk so they don’t have to use the street.

The cost should be relatively low, Keeler said. Much of the existing fencing material will be reused and city crews will handle the labor.


Why have the fence?

Many of the tall fences at the zoo were installed during the city’s quest to have the zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. In addition to the individual animal cages, the guidelines mandated a “secondary containment” that would keep in any escaped critters.

But, “the fences have been a sore spot for a number of people,” Partington said. Many have complained about them and how they have made the park less user friendly.

So, when the officials looked at possible changes, they sought middle ground – keep the backup security while allowing more public usage. This led to the plan presented Monday.

Some of the changes to be made will accommodate existing animals as well as make it possible to add more exhibits at a later date, perhaps deer or buffalo.


 In the future

Partington said the new fences and sidewalks are part one of a longer-term effort to improve Brit Spaugh.”We’d like to take the park and do some new things with it.”

Partington and Keeler presented some of these ideas Monday night. But, no action was taken.

Among the suggestions are: To upgrade the small baseball field on the south end, along with the adjoining parking lot; replace the BMX park with basketball courts; take out a couple of the horseshoe pits and add a shelter house; install a small spray park; and do other landscaping.

“We want to take that entrance to Brit Spaugh Park and make it pop,” Keeler said.