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Petition to save zoo gaining support

Friends of Chippewa Park still hopeful the wildlife exhibit can be saved.

THUNDER BAY - Supporters of the Chippewa Park Wildlife Exhibit say this weekend may be the last chance the public has to see the animals, but they hope that will change.

Friends of Chippewa Park are still collecting signatures for a petition to save the wildlife exhibit. As of Wednesday, the petition has collected more than 750 signatures.

Thunder Bay city council voted in favour of closing the wildlife exhibit at Chippewa Park as part of budget deliberations last week. Shutting the exhibit would save $83,000 from the 2017 budget.

“We have one last chance to get council to save the wildlife exhibit and that is at the final budget vote on Tuesday the 21st,” said Lorraine Lortie-Krawczuk, president of Friends of Chippewa Park. “We’re going to present that to council on Tuesday, but we’re also encouraging people to individually call the councilors and let them know that they would like to see the decision reversed.”

The group has been collecting signatures for the petition for the past month after learning the wildlife exhibit was going to be up for discussion during this year’s budget deliberations.  

Coun. Iain Angus, who is also a member of Friends of Chippewa Park, presented the petition that had 583 signatures at the time the exhibit’s future was up for discussion in the council chambers on Feb. 10. It was not enough to sway his fellow councilors to vote in favour of keeping the exhibit open.

Lortie-Krawczuk said she is hoping to get more than 1,000 signatures by next Tuesday and is encouraging the people of Thunder Bay to visit the Chippewa Wildlife Exhibit Sunday and Monday of the Family Day weekend to show their support.

“I think if the city staff see that there is a lot of interest and a lot of people coming out,” she said. “I honestly think that the biggest impact will be people individually calling their councilors and talking to them.”

According to Lortie-Krawczuk, it doesn’t make sense for the city to be shutting down the exhibit when it is looking at revitalizing Chippewa Park.

“The city is in the middle of a visioning exercise for park as a whole,” she said. “There’s a lot of tax-payer dollars being spent right now on consultants to plan for the park for the next few years. I don’t think it makes sense to make those kind of decisions at budget time when we are in the middle of those exercises. That kind of seems to be throwing away the money they are already spending on these consultants.”

With council voting to close the wildlife exhibit by a vote of 10 to 2, Lortie-Krawczuk said they will need to change the minds of at least five councilors.

“I’m always hopeful,” she said. “It’s definitely worth a try. I think this is something important and I’m not sure if councilors understand the amount of support there is out there in the community for the wildlife exhibit.”

The petition is available online at the Chippewa Park website.