After a year and half, Nicole Benz is leaving the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo as of Aug. 7. She currently serves as the facility’s director.
The decision to leave didn’t come easy, Benz said. After much thought, she said she is resigning for personal reasons.
“It is with great sadness and regret that I announce my resignation from the zoo,” Benz said. “I have enjoyed working with this community and I love this zoo so much.”
She said she has learned a lot and had some great experiences here.
“Thank you all for your continued support of the zoo,” she said, adding she loves the backing the community gives the zoo and how much she loves the animals.
Benz started out as an educator at the zoo, then moved to curator and then earned the promotion of zoo director.
According to Great Bend City Administrator Howard Partington, the city will be looking for a new supervisor to fill Benz’s position. Until then, he said they have a great staff to keep the zoo going until that position is filled.
Benz replaced Scott Gregory who held the post for five years, leaving in December 2014. She was handling the duties of director and curator.
The zoo was founded in 1952 by it’s namesake, Brit Spaugh, a Navy veteran of World War II who wanted to create a park that would delight area children. It started with two deer.
Today, the modern zoo continues to bring in new animals for purposes of education, species preservation and public interest. It also houses the Raptor Center, which serves as entrance to the zoo.
Its mission is to protect and conserve raptors – birds of prey – through rehabilitation, education, research and habitat preservation. The Raptor Center has a veterinary exam room with a large window so visitors can watch as animals receive physical care.
There’s also a gift shop, the “Critter Corner” exhibit of small insects and reptiles, and a meeting area that can be reserved for events such as birthday parties.
Visitors can buy food at the gift shop for feeding the ducks and fish.