BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (WTNH)– Connecticut’s only zoo has been closed since the beginning of the pandemic, but it is getting ready to open to the public as of Monday.
Friday morning, the media was given a sneak preview of some changes the park has made due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Just like things are different at the grocery store with wearing a mask, social distance, and one-way aisles. When the Beardsley Zoo reopens to the public, you’re going to see the same thing.
There will be no ticket sales at the entrance. You buy a ticket online for either the 9 a.m. to noon morning session or the 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. afternoon session. That gives the staff an hour in between sessions to give the park a thorough cleaning.
“It also gives us the opportunity to have 500 guests in the morning and 500 guests in the afternoon,” explained Gregg Dancho, the Director of the Beardsley Zoo.
That is half the usual capacity. During your session, you follow the arrows on a one-way path through the zoo. Stickers and signs all around remind you to keep a safe distance between your family and any other group.
“If you’re with a family group, then your group is considered a herd,” Dancho said. “That herd will stay together and again, stay 6 feet away from other herds. If there’s any predator-prey involved here then we will have to deal with that as we go along.”
Speaking of predators, the Amur Tigers looked very interested in our camera crew as we got a preview tour of the zoo. Turned out they just missed us.
“The big cats really enjoy watching our visitors, so it has been maybe a little more boring for them,” said zookeeper Bethany Thatcher “We’ve been trying to step up our enrichment program and offer them different sorts of things.”
While there are still plenty of animals you can see, all the buildings at the zoo are closed, so you will miss out on certain animals, as well as the carousel and playground. Because of that, they’ve lowered the ticket prices slightly.
You can get some snacks and sit at the picnic tables, which are spaced a safe distance apart. And when it comes to the most popular exhibits, the zoo asks please do not monkey around with safety.
“We are asking, again, for our visitors to not congregate in front of exhibits, keep away from the glass,” said Dancho. “We’re in to a common sense type of reality right now.”
When you buy a ticket for either session, you do not have to arrive right on time, but if you’re late, that’s just less time you get to enjoy the zoo.
According to zoo officials, the new requirements for guests are:
- Masks must be worn by all guests, except for those ages two and under.
- Social distancing must be observed, with six-foot distancing between family groups.
- Tickets must be purchased online in a contactless system: links will be provided on the website and social media before opening.
- There will be two sessions allowing for 50% capacity in each. The first is from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. The Zoo will close from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. for cleaning. A second session is from 1:00-4:00 p.m.
- A one-way loop around the Zoo is identified by signs to keep cross traffic at a minimum.
- Ticket prices are reduced: $15 for adults; $10 for children and seniors age 62 and over. Children under three are free.
- All buildings will be closed with the exception of restrooms.
- Restrooms will be monitored and cleaned throughout the day.
- An online app will allow food orders for pick-up through a side window. Limited menu items. Guests may bring their own food.
- No stroller or wheelchair rentals are available. Guests are asked to bring their own.
- The Gift Shop will have an outdoor kiosk for purchases with an online app.
To plan your next visit, click here.