ST. LOUIS, Mo. — A new one-eighth of 1 percent sales tax is projected to raise $20 million annually for the Zoo. It was passed by St. Louis County voters Tuesday. Proposition Z will help with repairs for the Forest Park location and fund the 425-acre expansion in north St. Louis County. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Zoo already gets $22 million from property taxes in St. Louis and St. Louis County.
The zoo is purchasing the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562's 425-acre complex in north St. Louis County near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, which includes the Emerald Greens Golf Course. They plan on developing the property to care for threatened and endangered animals.
There also will likely be a public component to this property. This is similar to other zoos that have off-site conservation breeding facilities, and the public element offered often includes a wildlife and safari experience.
The property features great terrain, fencing, utilities, lakes, buffers surrounding and existing buildings. The Saint Louis Zoo obtained the $7.1 million to purchase the land through "philanthropic gifts intended for procurement of this property. No taxpayer dollars were used."
“We are excited for our future,” said Jeffrey Bonner, CEO of the Saint Louis Zoo. “With the development of this agreement, our Zoo will remain at the very forefront of zoological institutions in the world and preserve a great heritage for the greater St. Louis region.”
The zoo said the golf course on the property will remain open until the sale is finalized in a few months. However, the golf course will ultimately not be part of the zoo's long-term plan.
For several years, the zoo has been looking to expand. In 2012, it bought 14 acres at the site of the former Forest Park Hospital. In 2016, the zoo tried to purchase Grant’s Farm, but that deal didn’t materialize.
The St. Louis Zoo withdrew its offer to buy Grant’s Farm from the Busch family, in part because of the Busch family’s disagreement about the future of the historic attraction.