The photo above remembers the beautiful fountain and ponds that graced Roeding Park on donated land that had been freely-accessible to the public for more than 110 years. The City of Fresno has allowed their tenant, Fresno Chaffee Zoo, to build their "African Adventure" expansion here, destroyiing this huge area of Roeding Park forever by tearing out the fountain, the ponds, the Palm Point and Umbrella Grove picnic areas as well as many trees. The ugly replacement ponds are a poor attempt at mitigation, and lack the classic beauty of the original historic curvilinear construction.
Today, two restrictively narrow, dead-end, out-and-back paved trails,"Twiga" (giraffe) and "Tembo" (elephant), jut into this acreage and are only accessible by paying Zoo customers. Public access to this former open space, suppossedly protected by the National Park Service, has been reduced to a tiny fraction of what it was for over a century. Now the Zoo needs more parking (surprise!) and much more of the remaining green space in Roeding Park is threatened to soon be paved over.
This photo shows a contruction trailer currently serving as the zoo office after Harris Construction removed the historic Park Office building from the zoo's "African Adventure" expansion area. While the national trend is for smaller zoos to exhibit smaller, more appropriate animals in naturalistic settings, Fresno's zoo continues to insist on the antiquated model of stuffing as many large, exotic animals as possible into tiny exhibit spaces within Roeding Park. According to Keith McClintock, a principal of the Portico Group, “You can get people just as excited about an exhibit with smaller animals, and you don’t need 5 acres to do it.” See story in the 9/27/2014 Sacramento Bee
In 2004, the Measure Z sales tax was passed by Fresno County voters as the "only way to repair and restore the Chaffee Zoo" (see their teary-eyed elephant campaign sign, left).
In fact, the City-owned zoo was never really in trouble - the City of Fresno just didn't want to continue subsidizing it. They wanted to use our tax money they were spending on the zoo for other pet projects. Zoo proponents, for their part, simply wanted to expand (not really repair and restore) the zoo and funnel massive amounts of new Measure Z tax dollars to their construction cronies.
More than a decade later and with nearly $100 million raised from Fresno County taxpayers, the real brown-eyed Asian elephants still live in the same exact squalid barn and tiny yard in which they lived back in 2004. We have recenly learned that these elephants will be shipped off to another zoo in the near future.
Unfortunately, the non-elected people currently responsible for our Measure Z tax money have chosen to spend it on new animals and grandiose buildings rather than spend it to significantly improve the daily lives of the very elephants and other animals they told us were in such terrible trouble way back in 2004.
Why did they lie? Because it was much easier to say they had to "Save the Zoo" than to gain approval for an massive expansion into an historic park and arboretum. The intention was never really to simply fix what they already had.
Everything the "No on Z" campaign said in 2004 has come to pass and the City's adoption of the fatally-flawed EIR confirms the massive takeover of Roeding Park by commercial interests that was denied over and over again by The Fresno Bee, the Mayor of Fresno and zoo proponents like Pelco's David McDonald during the campaign.
Why have people who have been proponents of and financial contributors to the Yes On Z campaign been appointed as members of the Zoo Authority, the body responsible for oversight of the zoo's expenditures? Isn't that like the fox guarding the henhouse?
The Rest of this Federally-Protected Historic American Landscape will be lost forever...
unless we tell our City leaders not to pave over the Park!
We are the Friends of Roeding Park - a diverse group of citizens opposed to Fresno Chaffee Zoo's massive, financially unsustainable takeover of the entire southern half of the Park and their plans to take over even more of the Park with giant paved parking lots and more large animal exhibits resulting in less green space for people. We appreciate your supportin our efforts to preserve this federally protected Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) resource for human (not exotic animal) outdoor recreation on behalf of all the citizens of Fresno.
The City of Fresno has allowed the Fresno Chaffee Zoo to expand onto the original 1903 donation land for Roeding Park. The planning process for this expansion has primarily been done in secret without any meaningful public notice, without opportunity for reasonable opposition analysis and without sharing of the plan's details for the public to see online or anywhere else.
The Friends of Roeding Park have made it very clear to City officials over many years that we wished to be notified and given proper time to comment on the voluminious documents created by City staff and consultants over many months in secret, but have been intentially thwarted by City staff and Mayor Ashley Swearengin's administration who have continually acted in bad faith by their releasing of these documents to the public at the very last minute - just a few days prior to City Council votes. The City claims they have followed the letter of the law, but their unwillingness to be transparent in their years-long process has caused our citizens to lose the City's oldest and most beloved Roeding Park to commercial zoo interests.
Read our 6/29/11 Letter and attachments A, B and C addressing new and significant information introduced at and following the close of the public comment portion of the Fresno City Council's EIR hearing, our 6/21/11 Letter to the Fresno City Councilon the Final EIR and our 6/6/11 Comment Letter on the City's Recirculated Draft EIR for the Chaffee Zoo expansion. All three detail why the EIR as passed is incomplete and not legally sound.
Because the files are so large, here are the attachments for the 6/6/11 letter: A, B, C, D, E, F,G1, G2, H
In addition to opposing the Fresno Chaffee Zoo expansion, more and more Fresno voters oppose the conversion of additional Roeding Park public land from outdoor recreation uses to large zoo animal exhibits, parking lots and buildings as well as further demolition of trees, most of which are century-old mature shade trees. Destruction of picnic areas, sports fields, maliciously moving the state-funded dog park to the non-shaded, northwest corner of the Park against the Freeway 99 fence and destroying numerous other much-loved classically-landscaped public Roeding Park spaces formerly enjoyed for free by more than 1 million Fresnans of all socio-economic backgrounds, has caused a significant reduction of historic green park space for people. These features simply cannot be adequately replicated anywhere else in Fresno.
A letter to the editor in The Fresno Bee 11/2/2010:
I was shocked upon seeing in The Bee the area the proposed zoo expansion would cover. It would consume most of the green space. The zoo can only be visited a few times a year at most. For families on the south end of Fresno who have little income, several children and no yard space, they need a place to run, picnic and fish every week if they wish.
North Fresno has Woodward Park. If the Chaffee Zoo has $10 million to spend, put the large animals out there.
A letter to the editor in The Fresno Bee 11/4/2010:
We have been Chaffee Zoo members for 12 years. Even so, we disagree with the proposal to expand the zoo. What we oppose is the encroachment and disregard for the rest of the park.
If the zoo has so much money, buy land and relocate. A zoo can be anywhere. It does not need to be at Roeding Park to attract busloads of school children. If they made half an effort, they could probably find a donor who would give the 39 acres zoo planners seem to desire.
The park is a treasure on its own. Almost everyone who grew up in Fresno has fond childhood memories and loves to share it with their own children and grandchildren.
How many people remember events at the amphitheater that has now been swallowed by the zoo? Will it swallow the whole park? There is only one Roeding Park, and the zoo board seems oblivious to its history.
The people of Fresno ought to have a chance to vote on this issue.
Follow the link below to hear audio from the 7/28/2010 meeting of the Fresno County Zoo Authority as they deny Fresno's Chaffee Zoo Corp's request for a $9.45 million advance for a new Seal and Sea Lion Exhibit until after the Fresno City Council's certification of the Draft EIR detailing the destructive takeover of the majority of Roeding Park for the commercial benefit of the zoo, Playland and Storyland. The zoo came to the meeting without any environmental documentation whatsoever.
Roeding Park was donated to the City of Fresno in phases starting in 1903 by Frederick and Marianne Roeding for the purpose of a public park and as a demonstration arboretum designed by Johannes Reimers, a botanist of worldwide reputation, and planted by their son, George C. Roeding, a horticulturist of international fame and the City of Fresno's first Parks Commissioner.
Having grown large over the past 100+ years, the majestic, well-planned groves of big trees at Roeding today offer shady, often crowded gathering places for diverse families from central Fresno neighborhoods seeking free respite from the Valley heat - a place for picnics, quinceaneras and weddings; children running free; spontaneous and organized soccer and volleyball games and coolers filled with cool beverages, snacks and BBQs.
Although a zoo has existed in the park to some degree since the early years, today the City of Fresno has allowed the zoo to expand across the entire southeastern section of the park (into the original 1903 donation land) - nearly all the way to Golden State Boulevard - destroying the historic fishing ponds and ripping out many majestic trees that have stood for over 100 years. See Zoo's Proposed Master Plan.
Bust of George C. Roeding, the man who created Roeding Park was located beside the Park office just inside the Belmont Ave entrance for many decades, but has now disappeared.
These historic fishing ponds have been demolished and the ugly replacement ponds pale in comparison to the beauty of the originals.
The fountain pictured at the top of this page, groves of historic century-old trees from around the world, the historic fishing ponds, large fields, the horseshoe pits and numerous picnic table areas & the Palm Point Picnic Shelter have already been lost to the public forever when these areas were converted to commercial zoo uses.
The relocation of the fishing ponds to the center of the Park has forced the dog parks to be moved along the northwestern Freeway 99 side of the Park, resulting in loss of former green space in both locations. Large Safari Park-type animals such as elephants, giraffes, gorillas, chimpanzees, lions, hippos, tigers, bears, zebras, and rhinoceros need many more acres than Roeding Park can ever provide and more financial support than Fresno taxpayers alone can bear. Let's keep a first-class Children's Zoo in the park with smaller, more interesting and appropriate animals.
Please check back here often as new information will be added.
If you would like to get involved, please let your friends know about the zoo's unsustainable, never-ending expansion plans into the Park and send us an e-mail so we may add your name to our ever-growing confidential list of supporters of the Friends of Roeding Park:
Friends of Roeding Park have retained attorney Richard L. Harriman and the prestigious law firm of Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger of San Francisco to represent the interests of the Fresnans who use and enjoy the Park during the zoo's expansion attempt. If you would like to make a donation to the legal defense fund in memory of Peter Roeding Butler, who fought strongly to save Roeding Park by participating in a lively debate which aired on KVPR FM89.3 in Fresno in 2004, please mail your check in any amount payable to: Mr. Bruce B. Roeding, P.O. Box 2278, Fremont, CA 94536. Donations to this fund are not tax deductible.