The Applegate Park Zoo at 1045 W. 25th Street in Merced reopens on Saturday, July 25, at 10 a.m.
Its new hours of operation are Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. On Mondays, the zoo will be closed for additional cleaning.
Admission is $2 for children ages 5 to 15, $3 for those aged 16 to 61, and $1.50 for adults aged 62 and over. No admission is charged for children under the age of 5 and for members of the Merced Zoological Society.
City of Merced Recreation Supervisor Jennifer Arellano told the Times, “The zoo has been closed since mid-March when the initial stay-at-home order was issued due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The zoo administrators would like to thank and acknowledge everyone who continued to support the zoo during the closure by flooding us with generous donations of fruits, vegetables, enrichment activities, kiddie pools, peanut butter, and much more.
“In many ways, visitors will have a different zoo experience than they are used to, but the beloved animals and staff are still there to welcome everyone and give some much needed respite from the isolation many have experienced due to the pandemic.”
Michelle Reid, City of Merced Recreation Supervisor overseeing the Zoo, Youth Services and Youth and Adult Sports, told the Times, “We have been really looking forward to reopening the Applegate Park Zoo and having the public come in.
“While the zoo was closed, we were gearing up for the reopening and were checking guidelines daily. They change all the time, and we get e mails about upticks in Virus cases in California when the Governor sends directives to the general public statewide. The City is following the Governor’s directives, meaning we all have to wear masks in public indoor spaces and also if you are outside and not able to socially distance, you must wear a mask.
“We are following Merced County Public Health guidelines, as well.
“We will ask that the visitors wear masks, unless they fall into the State allowed exceptions, which are a person under 2 years of age and someone with a health condition that prevents them from wearing a mask, such as a person on oxygen.
“At the zoo, we will provide signs that encourage people to socially distance, and we will place markers that send everyone in the same direction so they will not be criss-crossing on the path.
“Throughout the zoo, we will be posting various signs encouraging people not to feed the animals or toss food into a cage. People can hang out and watch them play, but we have to be careful for the animals’ sakes as well as our visitors.
“We’re not sure that birds are susceptible to Coronavirus, but we do know felines can catch it, and we have two bobcats. Our animals are getting older, and our challenge is keeping them healthy, so we don’t want to compound the challenge by exposing them to a virus.
“We will not be allowing the feeding of the animals at the petting zoo. The petting zoo won’t be open. We can’t clean the animals after somebody pets them, so it makes it difficult, for example, to allow a lot of kids to go in and pet the same goat. We want to keep everyone safe
“We will not be offering water at the public drinking fountains. Initially, bottled water will not be available for purchase because the Merced Zoological Society will not be operating the gate when the zoo first reopens. Guests are advised to bring their own water.
“We are not, at this point, checking temperatures at the entrance because we don’t have the staff, so we ask that one person per family sign a waiver stating no one in their party is suffering symptoms or has been exposed, to the best of their knowledge.
“We reduced the number of people we can allow into the zoo. The capacity is 300, but we had to reduce it to 150.
“At this point, events for the general public are not going to be held at the zoo. There are still State restrictions on how many people can get together and we’re adhering to that.
“The Ed-zoo-cation Center will not be open because of State regulations which do not allow the reopening of any indoor facility at a park at this time.
What was going on at the zoo while it was closed?
“The zoo’s crew was reduced during the time the zoo was closed because less people meant less risk, so I think the crew came in and did what they needed to do for maintenance and got back out. The only difference is trade offs on maintenance such as crew members were able to spend a little more time at one of the exhibits because they didn’t need to trim the tree closest to the entrance since no visitors were coming in.
“The zoo staff is phenomenal and did a great job of keeping the animals safe and healthy so the animals look really good.
“When I went into the zoo, I noticed the bears were enjoying a nap in the middle of the day. They looked pretty relaxed.”
Community members can follow the zoo’s Facebook page (@Merced Zoo) for cute pictures and videos, for updates, and to find out how to donate. For further information, those interested can call 209-385-6855.