Arts and Culture

Denver Zoo Waiting on State for Permission to Reopen

When the newborn cubs are ready to leave the pen, they'll join the rest of their pride on Predator Ridge.
When the newborn cubs are ready to leave the pen, they'll join the rest of their pride on Predator Ridge. Kurt Cotoaga / Unsplash
For cultural organizations, the COVID-19 shutdowns have been devastating. The Denver Center for the Performing Arts has made massive cuts to programming and staff. Galleries are slowly returning, and the Denver Botanic Gardens has opened its doors, with huge shifts in admission policy, but the lights are still off at most arts, science and culture organizations.

Zoos have a bigger dilemma than most shuttered cultural institutions. Not only are they losing massive amounts of revenue while they're closed, but workers have to be on site 24/7 to care for the animals. It's an expensive proposition, and the Denver Zoo has been pushing hard to reopen.

Last weekend, the City of Denver approved the Denver Zoo's proposal for reopening. The process involved reviews and discussions with the city, local hospitals and the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment. But the zoo is still closed this weekend.

It's now waiting for approval from the State of Colorado. The proposal is being reviewed by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which will vet the plan for how well it follows health guidelines and recommendations for guests and employees.

“We are excited to reopen this 124-year-old nonprofit organization and provide our community with a safe, enjoyable experience that generations have enjoyed through some of Colorado’s most challenging times,” says Bert Vescolani, president and CEO of Denver Zoo.

"The Zoo has spent several weeks preparing to reopen to the community with extensive new policies and procedures in place that will help keep guests, staff and animals safe during COVID-19," an announcement of the city's approval states. "As an 80-acre outdoor venue, the Zoo’s expansive space allows for guests to socially distance, and the Zoo has taken extraordinary measures to provide guests with a great experience, while also promoting safe, healthy practices. These measures include enhanced sanitation procedures, limited lines and crowd sizes, encouraged social distancing, capped daily attendance with timed entry, and adherence to strict employee protocols."

Until the state gives the okay, if you're missing the Denver Zoo, it's offering extensive online programming on the Denver Zoo website and Facebook page
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Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris