The Jackson Zoo, what to do, what to do, what to do? The Zoo surrendered its American Zoological Association accreditation a few weeks ago. The Zoo has been troubled for quite some time as it has been plagued by a declining attendance, a deteriorating neighborhood, and uneven funding. JJ thinks that the zoo benefits the Jackson metro area as well as the state. There are world-class zoos in Memphis and New Orleans but there is no reason this area can't continue to operate a quality zoo. Mississippi loses when we lose our cultural attractions. What is needed is some truly out of the box thinking. JJ offers a possible solution.
The obvious problem facing the zoo is its location. The neighborhoods around it look like a war zone. Once beautiful churches are now falling apart, their windows covered with plywood, and roofs are collapsing. Houses that are literally crumbling away populate the area. Bums walk up and down that section of Capitol Street. Mothers simply are not going to take their children through that environment to reach the zoo and the numbers show it. However, the zoo needs help and needs it now. However, the chances of Jackson getting the community support and $100 million or more to move the zoo are virtually nil. However, hope for the zoo's future is not lost.
Take a look at this Google earth of the area. Click on the images to enlarge.
One can easily see the problem. The zoo has an entrance that is on Capitol Street. It's a long drive from downtown and goes through some bad neighborhoods if one uses the I-220 exit. However, look at the map again:
The zoo is actually right next to Hawkins Field and Sonny Guy Golf Course. However, the entrance is on Capitol Street. Look at this map.
There is one simple change that could fix part of the Zoo's problem- move the entrance to Fortification Street:
The entrance will then face Hawkins Field and a golf course. The Jackson Municipal Airport Authority is going to renovate the interior of the South Terminal and place a gate at that end of the runway. The manager told JJ last year that he would like to place a small cafe in the terminal. This would be a nice trifecta of culture that could help West Jackson: a zoo, airport, and golf course. However, there is the matter of Bullard Street.
A visitor traveling to the new entrance could get off at the Bullard/Capitol Street exit on I-220 and take a left onto Bullard Street. The distance from the exit to the new entrance is probably a little more than quarter of a mile and is lined by shotgun houses and a two convenience stores. Use eminent domain and clear them out. Landscape the heck out of Bullard from Capitol Street to the fork with Fortification Street and Woodrow Wilson. Clearing out a quarter mile is much easier then revitalizing a major thoroughfare. Install more than a few lights. Make the entrance nice and then promote the heck out of it. Does the JSU Parkway ring a bell?
Maps don't tell the whole story. Here is the view of the proposed entrance as seen through a few photos. It is near the location of the merge traffic sign.
|Proposed Jackson Zoo entrance from Fortification Street|
What does one see? As the announcer says, green, green, green. A nice beautiful green. Here are some pictures taken of the view from the proposed entrance. The first picture shows where Woodrow Wilson, Bullard Street, and Fortification Street meet. The yellow "X" is near the proposed entrance.
|View from Hawkins entrance of where all three streets meet.|
|North view from proposed entrance|
|West view from proposed entrance|
|East view of Fortification Street from proposed entrance|
North of the zoo is Hawkins Field. These photos show how the area looks between Hawkins Field and the proposed zoo entrance.
|Western view of South entrance to Hawkins Field. Green!!!|
|South entrance to Hawkins Field|
|South entrance to Hawkins Field across from golf course|
|Eastern view of Woodrow Wilson from Hawkins Field. More green!|
JJ videotaped a drive (with commentary) from the interstate exit to the proposed entrance that is posted above. Watch the video for yourself. Moving and beautifying is a much cheaper solution than spending $100 million to move the zoo. Well, it is much cheaper unless we bring in consultants and studies. This IS Mississippi.
Note: Here is a video of the Capitol Street route to the zoo I shot three years ago.