City Scene: Zoo Sanctuary honored as 'regional treasure'

By: Evert Palmer, Folsom City Manager, Special to the Telegraph
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This is a big year for Folsom’s much beloved Zoo Sanctuary. The unique facility, which is home to more than 90 animals, celebrates its 50th anniversary while also being honored with a Regional Treasure Award from the California Park and Recreation Society.

Several generations of Folsom families have enjoyed the six-acre nature education facility since its inception as a haven for injured and orphaned wildlife in 1963. In fact, I believe I would be hard pressed to find a local family that has not visited our Zoo.  More than 130,000 people walked through the gates last year, and another 12,500 took advantage of learning opportunities by enrolling in programs, camps and classes.

Over the years the Zoo’s collection has grown in population and diversity of species. Today the Zoo is home to tigers Misty and Pouncer, as well as mountain lions, black bears, wolves, bobcats, coyotes, raccoons, ravens, hawks, deer, monkeys, tigers, snakes, macaws, sheep, miniature donkeys and more.  The exhibits are designed to allow visitors to observe natural animal behaviors in an up-close and personal manner.

From the very beginning, the Zoo Sanctuary was a joint effort of the City and a caring community that supported a mission of “Teaching responsible behavior toward all animals.”  Much of the success of the Zoo Sanctuary is due to a strong corps of dedicated volunteers and community partners including local veterinarians, food suppliers, service groups, businesses and rescue organizations.

The Friends of the Folsom Zoo Sanctuary was formed in 1981 and now has more than 500 active members. They have raised more than $1 million for capital improvement projects, operational support and animal enrichment items since 2004. Current board members include President Becky Boone; Vice President David Oliver; Secretary Ed Kaufmann; Treasurer Tom Peno, Director Jeff Boone; and Zoo Supervisor Jocelyn Smeltzer, who has managed programs and staff for the past 10 years.  I thank them for their service.

Another 250 to 350 volunteers contribute time annually as educational docents, zookeeper aides, gift shop and horticulture volunteers and more. While there are many who deserve recognition, I would like to call out just a few for their long-time commitment – Mary and Bill Cobb, Lloyd and Delores Bousliman, Lloyd Strong, Sue Spielman, Valerie Fercho-Tillery and Silver Spalding. Their dedication and commitment to the Zoo Sanctuary is inspiring.

Next month Mayor Steve Miklos and Zoo Sanctuary officials will proudly accept the Regional Treasure Award from the California State Parks and Recreation Society. This prestigious award honors programs that have positively influenced the quality of life within the region, as well as the outstanding dedication of the visionaries, partners and stakeholders of the Zoo Sanctuary.

The Zoo Sanctuary is indeed one of the City’s finest resources and a local and regional tourism attraction. Trip Advisor recently awarded the Zoo a Certificate of Excellence. And, the Folsom Telegraph named the Zoo the Best of the Best Family Activity. I encourage you to support the Zoo Sanctuary as we celebrate its 50th year in our community.  I welcome your comments at