SPRINGFIELD — On Oct. 1, state Sen. Eric Lesser and state Rep. Carlos González were joined by members of the Springfield legislative delegation, and Sarah Tsitso, executive director of the Zoo in Forest Park & Education Center, to announce $50,000 in funding secured for annual operations.
Lesser acted as lead budget sponsor in the Senate in securing this earmark in the FY22 budget along with House sponsor González. The FY22 budget was passed by the Senate and House and signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker in July.
“Last year, when zoos across the country closed their doors for good, Forest Park Zoo took in dozens of animals in need of a home and welcomed 40 new animals, including two black timber wolves, a red fox, and a snowy owl,” Lesser said. “Alongside our Springfield delegation, I was proud to secure funding for educational efforts, animal care, and operations to ensure the Forest Park Zoo remains a vibrant cornerstone of our Western Mass community.”
González added that “Forest Park Zoo is more than a zoo, it’s a sanctuary. It allows for animals to be treated in a humane way and taken care of when situations arise. I’m delighted to be working with my colleagues in the Springfield delegation in a united effort to make sure that the zoo continues to thrive and drive opportunity for families in urban areas to come and see the animals here.”
These funds will help sustain the annual operations of the Zoo in Forest Park, which includes daily care of more than 240 animals 365 days per year, including several endangered species; educational opportunities for youth and adults across Western Mass.; camps during summer and school vacation weeks; collaborations with other local nonprofits, including Square One in Springfield and Girls Inc. of the Valley in Holyoke; job training and internships in the fields of biology, veterinary medicine, and animal care; tourism and marketing initiatives that encourage visitors to spend time and money in the city and our region; and opportunities for individuals and local businesses to get involved in their community through volunteer projects.
“We are tremendously grateful to Sen. Lesser, Rep. Gonzalez, and all members of the Western Massachusetts legislative delegation for their ongoing support of our work and our mission,” Tsitso said. “Our zoo is part of the very fabric of this community, serving as a resource for generations of local families and providing high-quality care for animals that need our help. The funding we are receiving as part of the state’s fiscal year 2022 budget will ensure we are able to meet the needs of more than 240 animals that call our zoo their home 365 days a year.”