Cleaning Up Roosevelt Zoo | VideoJoel Porter | 6/1/2012
"Actually, today is the one year anniversary of the day we evacuated the animals from the zoo," he said.
At the time, Merritt was barely a month on the job. His staff had to scramble to move every last animal to safe haven.
"This zoo campus was literally part of the river for three weeks."
One year later, cleanup continues. All of the dirt and silt has been cleared out, but the zoo is still not ready to sell tickets.
"We feel badly we can`t do that yet. But to tell you the truth, I`m sitting here looking around saying, `This looks like a zoo.` And two months ago, it didn`t. It looked like a disaster area."
Last summer`s flood took out much of the perimeter fence along the river. In order to keep their federal license, the zoo staff would have to replace all of that fence before they could even think about bringing back the animals and reopening.
"And that has now been bid out and that work will start here in a couple weeks. So that`s very exciting. That`s a big piece of what we need."
Contractors are now on site hauling away more silt and pouring concrete. Still, Merritt says this season may not be a total loss after all.
"We`re holding out hope that we may be able to open a portion of the zoo late summer and going into the fall, maybe weekends and stuff."
That remains a cautious estimate at this point. But thanks to the help of volunteers, Merritt and his staff are now even closer to welcoming back their menagerie.
The zoo was caring for around 250 animals. Merritt says some of the animals won`t return once Roosevelt Park reopens.