LODI, Calif. (KTXL) — A legal battle between San Joaquin County and the Micke Grove Zoological Society has reached a settlement agreement to improve the zoo — one of the county’s most popular attractions.
Improvements to the lemur island and den, the Mediterranean aviary and the reptile and amphibian animal exhibits will soon be at the Micke Grove Zoo.
“It was something that I visited as a child and I also go to as an adult,” Dr. Maria Garcia-Sheets said.
Garcia-Sheets is the executive director of the zoological society. She says the organization’s volunteer efforts have worked to support the zoo since 1978.
“It is this wonderful resource that we want to continue to support and see grow,” Garcia-Sheets told FOX40.
Concerns over outdated habitats of the 63-year-old zoo and how to best collect and spend money led to legal action between the county and the zoological society.
“Zoos have changed since Micke Grove Zoo began, and habitat structure, making sure that habitats are appropriate for animals that they have area to roam, that they have areas that keep them engaged in their proper behaviors are very important,” Garcia-Sheets said.
After multiple lawsuits and the reaction of the zoological society off zoo property, the two sides recently reached a settlement agreement regarding more than $650,000 in donations. That money is now dedicated to improving the three animal habitats.
“Both the county and the society are very interested in making certain that the zoo receives the kind of funding and updates necessary to protect the animals and to create habitats that are appropriate for them,” Garcia-Sheets said.
Water and electrical upgrades are currently underway at the zoo. But improvements to those habitats won’t begin for another five years.
“We would have liked to have seen the habitat improvement begin sooner but that is not the case. So, now we need to wait,” Garcia-Sheets said.
In February of this year, county supervisors approved a five-year strategic plan for the zoo. It includes seven top priorities: infrastructure, exhibits, guest experience, nonprofit partners, accreditation and volunteer programs.
While changes are happening, visitors can expect the same family-friendly experience for years to come.
“It’s something that we love; that we’re proud of; that we want to see continue; that we want to see improve; that we want to see as an attraction for other people to come into our area and enjoy what we know is here,” Garcia-Sheets said.
The Micke Grove Zoological Society said they hope to restore a cooperative relationship with the county moving forward in order to support conservation, learning and connection with nature.