How zoo, museum in GR will spend your tax dollars

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Now that Kent County voters have approved the zoo and museum millage, the question is how the tax dollars will be spent.

John Ball Zoo and the Grand Rapids Public Museum will split more than $8 million in new funding in the first year the millage is collected.

The museum plans to concentrate less on new, big-ticket exhibits and attractions and more on new ways to share the pieces of Grand Rapids history already in its collection. Those plans include bringing exhibits into student classrooms.

“We do crave active learning. We crave a real experience — to be able to put your hands on historical objects,” explained Grand Rapids Public Museum President and CEO Dale Robertson.

“Together with the partnership with the museum school, we will now develop curriculum units and lesson plans, paired with artifacts that can be shared (with) schools throughout Kent County,” he elaborated.

Reestablishing a stingrays exhibit after a mechanical failure killed 18 of the fish in July is on John Ball Zoo CEO Peter D’Arienzo’s wish list.

The closed stingray exhibit at John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids. (July 8, 2016)
The closed stingray exhibit at John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids. (July 8, 2016)

“In a nutshell, we’re going to use it to care for animals, to update some of our aging buildings,” explained D’Arienzo.

The renovations he’s hoping to make include straightening the zoo’s steep entrance path and basically fixing up the place.

“We’re 125 years old. We have buildings on site that are close to 100 years old,” D’Arienzo said.

Supporters say the millage is key to providing a stable form of funding for both the zoo and museum over the next decade and will help pay for long-term projects.

The funding is not dependent on the city and county budgets. Backers claim those guaranteed dollars will help convince private donors the zoo and museum worth investing in.

“It allows us then to go out in the community, partner with community groups, approach donors and say, “OK, our future needs educationally, where do we want to go? What other kind of partnerships can we put together? ” Explained Robertson.

The millage will cost the owner of a $170,00 home in Kent County an additional $37.40 year. It expires in 2025.


Grand Rapids Public Museum’s mission

John Ball Zoo’s master plan