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Officials Go Ape Over Idea To Move Zoo To Silverwood

Spokane and North Idaho tourism boosters went wild Friday over the idea of a state-of-the-art zoo complementing Silverwood Theme Park.

The Cedar Mountain Zoological Park would sit on 90 acres northwest of the Silverwood Theme Park off Interstate 95.

“This is a great concept,” said John Kozma of the Coeur d’Alene Convention and Visitors Bureau. “I’m especially excited about the educational opportunities with the zoo.”

The idea of moving the struggling Walk in the Wild zoo to Silverwood came about as early as last November, said Silverwood owner Gary Norton. The park faces its own struggles, with a poor exchange rate keeping away Canadian visitors who once flooded the grounds.

Norton had Aylward explore the opportunity for the move when his new general manager arrived in February. With 25 years in amusement park management, Aylward has developed a penchant for reviving and expanding parks.

The move makes sense because more major theme parks are adding zoos around the country, Aylward said. Six Flags/Great Adventure in Jackson, N.J., and Busch Gardens in Tampa, Fla., have added animal parks recently, he said.

For North Idaho, a new zoo means the potential for more visitors, who in turn may stay longer and spend more money, Kozma said.

The zoo would have regional appeal, Aylward said. Silverwood has refocused its marketing to concentrate on the greater Spokane market, including North Idaho. “We are basically in metropolitan Spokane right now,” he said. “This will be an asset to the entire region.”

Hartley Kruger of the Spokane Area Convention and Visitors Bureau said construction of the zoo would add to the tourism appeal of both Spokane and North Idaho.

“Spokane is not losing a zoo,” he said. Rather, it gains a regional asset that will draw people from around the Pacific Northwest, he said.

Kruger predicted that the Inland Northwest Zoological Society would be able to raise the necessary $2 million for the move money because the project seems worthy and viable.

The concept of having a zoo next to Silverwood seemed to pique the interest of Silverwood visitors Friday.

“I’d probably come here more for the zoo than I would for the theme park,” said Ronnye Eubanks of North Augusta, S.C. “I mean, I’d probably go to both when I make my visits up here. But I’d definitely be interested in the zoo.”

For Brett and Suzanne Burlingame of Gresham, Ore., having a zoo next to Silverwood would probably make them stay an extra day to see both. “This is our third trip back here, and we’d like it a lot, I’d think,” Brett Burlingame said.

, DataTimes