June 9, 2012 in Washington Voices

Brochures keep Walk in the Wild Zoo’s memory alive

By The Spokesman-Review
Jesse Tinsley photoBuy this photo

The pond and landscaped area known as Mirabeau Springs in Mirabeau Point Park was once the tiger enclosure at Walk in the Wild Zoo, which closed in the 1990s. The area was reclaimed as the park, which sits behind the YMCA and CenterPlace in Spokane Valley.
(Full-size photo)

Map of this story's location

The Spokane Valley parks department is helping to revive a little piece of the old Walk in the Wild Zoo.

The zoo used to sit on the land that currently houses Mirabeau Park and the CenterPlace events center in Spokane Valley. Walk in the Wild closed its doors in 1995 after struggling financially for several years.

A new brochure, developed by the Spokane Valley Parks and Recreation Department, will mark where the animal enclosures used to stand. The walking paths in the wooded area behind CenterPlace will take visitors past many of the old sites.

Lilly and Kasey the Bengal tigers lived where the man-made Mirabeau Springs is now. Further down the trail was Nasty the bobcat, so named because of how he treated the zoo handlers. A dinosaur exhibit filled what is now a grassy area next to Discovery Playground. Other zoo creatures included otters, foxes, cougars, lions, elk, emu and a snow leopard.

“People like to get married now in that beautiful space where tigers used to roam,” said department administrative assistant Patty Bischoff.

“The campus that we sit on seems to have quite a bit of historical connection to the Spokane Valley,” said Parks and Recreation Director Mike Stone.

Bischoff tackled the task of gathering the information for the brochure. “It’s something that has interested me because I grew up here,” she said.

Bischoff remembers her grade school class selling a “vanishing species medallion” to raise money for the zoo, but she wasn’t sure if she ever went there. “I couldn’t remember where the animals were, so that’s what made me think I didn’t.”

Information for the brochure came from former zoo staff members. Stone said he hopes to put up interpretive signs along the walking trail showing where the animals were located. “It kind of goes with Discovery Playground,” he said.

During her research, Bischoff discovered that a small cavelike structure everyone assumed was a bear den was actually a maternity ward mostly used by goats. Remnants of an eagle cage can still be seen along the path, she said.

Bischoff said she also found information about the zoo’s demise that recounted the financial troubles and complaints about the conditions some of the animals lived in, but that isn’t her focus. “There was a wonderful thing here,” she said. “Let’s celebrate the memories and the service that was provided.”

The brochure includes information about the zoo and its history as well as pictures of the animals that lived there. It is available at information kiosks at Discovery Playground, Mirabeau Springs, Mirabeau Meadows and CenterPlace.

Bischoff said she hasn’t heard much feedback about the new brochures, but she thinks they are being used. “I keep checking,” she said. “They’re going like hotcakes. I saw a family with one. We’re not finding them in the garbage cans.”

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