The Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas, is set to undergo exciting changes, including the introduction of a Soaring Eagle Zip Line. A groundbreaking ceremony was recently held to announce this addition, and it is expected to open to the public in late summer 2024.
The city of Brownsville is committed to funding the zoo's Master Plan, which aims to propel the zoo into the next 50 years of growth and development. Over the years, the city has invested significantly in the zoo, including issuing certificates of obligations totaling $29 million, with $2 million dedicated to matching funds for the zoo's capital campaign, Brownsville City Manager Helen Ramirez, AICP, said.
This support from the community, donors, and foundations is crucial for the zoo's expansion. The Master Plan encompasses various aspects, including new exhibits and an inclusive small-world area for children with disabilities. The goal is to elevate the Gladys Porter Zoo's status from one of the top 10 zoos in the nation to the top zoo in the world, and the zip line is one of the exciting features planned as part of this expansion.
"We are already one of the top 10 zoos in the nation but we want to be the world-class zoo. The zip line is one of the many new exhibits we have been looking at for the overall expansion of the zoo,” Ramirez said.
The Soaring Eagle Zip Line will offer a thrilling experience, taking zoo visitors over 120 feet in the air, high above the tree canopy. This addition aims to enhance recreational activities in Brownsville and attract a new demographic of visitors to the zoo.
The Gladys Porter Zoo, which first opened its doors in September 1971, has been a beloved community resource. District 1 City Commissioner Bryan L. Martinez believes that enhancing the zoo will boost tourism for the city and continue to provide a valuable outlet for the community.
The zip line will provide riders with a unique vantage point to view the zoo, extending all the way to the Rio Grande and neighboring Mexico.
Zoo Director Dr. Patrick Burchfield highlighted that the choice of a zip line was made to offer something distinctive and unmatched by other zoos. It represents the initial phase of the zoo's new Master Plan, which includes millions of dollars in upgrades, improvements, and new exhibits. After 50 years of operation, the zoo aims to provide larger habitats for its species and enhance the experience for both visitors and the animals.
“After 50 years the zoo needed some upgrades and we needed some larger habitats for our species; we have to do justice for them. It’s very important that we be at the top of our game for both the sake of the zoo visitors and the animal we are entrusted with,” Burchfield said.
The addition of the zip line is projected to generate approximately $360,000 in gross revenue, with an estimated fee of $8 per rider.