By Darla Shelden
ZooTroop, the Oklahoma Zoological Society’s young professional group, has recently unveiled nine newly mapped walking trails at the Oklahoma City Zoo. These walking and running trails were developed to showcase the healthy benefit of visiting the Oklahoma City Zoo.
Dana McCrory, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Zoological Society said, “People love being able to walk in the Zoo. These trails give our visitors the added benefit of incorporating exercise into a visit to the Zoo.”
The nine trails, ranging in distance from .32 miles to 2.87 miles, allow even the most novice walker an opportunity to benefit from the trail experience.
Red Coyote Running, a locally owned specialty running, walking, and fitness store located in Oklahoma City’s Classen Curve, sponsored the trail signs and maps as well as their installation.
“Red Coyote supported us from the start of this idea and really helped us make this happen,” said Kari Ames, President of ZooTroop. “Benefits of the trails include scenery and safety. Along each trail you have the opportunity to see exotic wildlife and landscaping and the Zoo provides a safe environment for walkers with staff, security and EMT’s on grounds.”
Started in January 2012, ZooTroop is made up of a group of young professionals, ages 21-35, who are interested in helping promote the Oklahoma Zoological Society (OZS).
“We are extremely proud of ZooTroop and what we have gotten accomplished in one short year,” said Ames. “Our members bring creativity, energy, and a spirit of celebration to the Zoo and OZS.”
OZS was created in 1954 to support and promote the Oklahoma City Zoo and its four goals, which include education, conservation, zoological research and recreation. OZS is able to assist these priorities through membership drives, fund-raising, capital campaigns, marketing, special events and public relations.
“The walking trails idea was born during our strategic planning in the spring of 2012,” said Ames. “We were asked to look at ways to involve a demographic of young professionals into becoming involved with the Zoo.”
“One of the things that was mentioned was that some people complained about how large the zoo was and how much they have to walk,” said Ames. “This immediately caught our attention because as a group we recognized the need and opportunity to turn something that could be a negative into a positive.”
The walking trails are a way to engage a new population of zoo patrons who would enjoy walking and running through a safe zoo environment, as well as making others aware of the different routes available.
“The walking trails have been a huge success and we couldn’t be more excited at the receptiveness from the Oklahoma City community,” said Ames. “We kicked the event off in November and we had over 300 in attendance. Since then, the word has spread and we are still receiving so much positive feedback from zoo patrons. We are excited to see this program continue to grow as it leads into our 5k race that we will be hosting in April.”
ZooFriends memberships are also a benefit.
Ames continued, “For less than you pay for a gym membership, you can purchase a ZooFriends membership and have a place to be active and outdoors 362 days a year.”
The oldest zoo in the Southwest, the Oklahoma City Zoo features a diverse animal and plant collection spread over 119 acres. The zoo is home to about 1,900 of the world’s most exotic animals, including 54 endangered or threatened species. In 2012, the zoo was voted the third best zoo in the nation by 10Best.com.
The Zoo is offering free admission for everyone each Monday in January and February.
For more information or to purchase a membership visit www.zoofriends.org.