FORT WORTH — Seventy years ago, construction crews built monkey and alligator exhibits, a concession stand and a rock picnic shelter at the Fort Worth Zoo with what amounted to Depression-era stimulus money.
But this time, the zoo, along with virtually every zoo and aquarium in the country, has been specifically and intentionally blocked from applying for any stimulus funding, an apparent political move that zoo leaders have yet to reverse despite months of Capitol Hill lobbying.
Zoos and aquariums, the vast majority municipally owned or run, were singled out as ineligible in the original bill, along with casinos, golf courses and swimming pools. The language floored many zoo directors around the country.
"We just can't figure out why," said Fort Worth Zoo Director Michael Fouraker. "We are a recreation destination, but we stand heavily on our education and conservation cornerstones too."
The Fort Worth Zoo, along with a number of other institutions, have not given up trying to change the language for one reason: the same wording appeared in the second stimulus bill, passed in March.
The concern, they said, is that any future stimulus bills would merely "cut and paste" the wording.
"I don't want to be excluded," said Jim Fleshman, director of the Cameron Park Zoo in Waco. "I would like the opportunity to compete. We want on a level playing field with everybody else. Based on the amount of community projects that zoos do, it would seem like a perfect place to invest funds."
As Congress moved early last year to authorize the first stimulus bill, the National Taxpayers Union and some members of Congress began criticizing the worthiness of skateboard parks, zoo renovations, horse paths and aquatic centers in a list of "ready to go" projects provided by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
To read the complete article, visit www.star-telegram.com.