Mayor, Officials Kick Off Construction on Buttonwood Park Zoo Expansion

Renovated Barn Will House Growing Animal Ambassador Program

NEW BEDFORD – Buttonwood Park Zoo will soon be home to some new animals.

Mayor Jon Mitchell joined Buttonwood Park Zoo Director of Zoological Services, Gary Lunsford, and others Friday morning to break ground on the expansion of the Animal Ambassador program. The Buttonwood Barn, located in the northwest corner of the zoo by Charlie’s Nature Play Area, will be completely renovated to increase the program’s capacity and exhibit space, which will lead to a more diverse range of animals in the program.

“In the Animal Ambassador program, children can interact with animals up close, an opportunity to learn that isn’t available on the Internet,” Mayor Mitchell said. “Expanding this program is great for the Zoo because it creates educational opportunities for the region’s school children.”

The current 3,600-square-foot barn will be completely remodeled to improve animal exhibits, provide more space for enclosures and medical care, and boost educational space and programs. A small new addition will provide a welcoming entrance vestibule, and a family restroom. The current restrooms will also be refurbished.

The new facility will be more environmentally friendly. The old gas heating system will be replaced with electric heating and cooling to eliminate the need for fossil fuels. Additionally, irrigation infrastructure in the rear of the building will minimize stormwater runoff.

The Zoo’s Animal Ambassador program, which started in 2014, is an environmental education-based program that connects visitors with animals up close. From opossums and skunks to birds and others, these critters will now have a home in view of zoo guests instead of behind the scenes.

“We are very excited about renovating the Buttonwood Barn into an educational animal facility,” Lunsford said. “We have shaped this project for several years now to find the best fit to serve the City of New Bedford. This is a big step in revitalizing the Buttonwood Farm for our guests.”

Construction on the $2.4 million renovation project will begin in March with an estimated completion in January. The Buttonwood Park Zoological Society continues to support the project, first with an initial $100,000 for design work, and will also be helping with animal accommodation during renovation. BayCoast Bank is also a supporter of the Animal Ambassador program, recently making a $250,000 donation to further educational opportunities.

The project is part of Phase II of the Zoo’s Master Plan, which was unveiled in 2016 and drives expansion efforts over the next decade.