The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

April 28, 2014

Zoo a popular summer destination

Visitors say they like the new look

Forget the snow up north, the chilly, wet weather down here and those elusive, sunny, 70-degree days.

A playful and lively sign of spring can be found, ready to nibble some food from your hand, at a historic Mankato park.

The animals have started arriving at the farm-themed Sibley Park Zoo. Three alpacas and two energetic miniature horses arrived last week. The goats will move in today, the calves should be there Tuesday and zoo staff is hoping to have the pot-bellied pigs in by Friday.

Peacocks, chicks and ducklings will be placed in their pens later in May.

“The reason for that is we have to make sure the weather is warm enough outside,” said Mark McQuillan, Mankato parks superintendent. “We try to get the baby animals like the sheep and the goats. So it’s more timing, it’s not on demand.”

The zoo has become a popular destination in Mankato with a series of improvements that have given the park a new look. Barns have been built, the playground has been improved and agreements with area farmers send healthy, young animals to the zoo each summer.

Sue Felmlee of Le Sueur remembers how popular the old Sibley Park Zoo was before it was washed away by the 1965 flood. She lived in Mankato as a child and remembers the wide variety of wild animals kept in cages and pens, including monkeys, a bear and a lion.

“Back when this was a real zoo, my grandpa would bring us down here all the time,” she said. “We would picnic on the hill and go play down by the river.”

Before the improvements, Felmlee didn’t think about visiting the park while she was in Mankato. Now it’s a destination point, as it was Saturday, for her, her husband and three young grandchildren. The kids were spending the night at their home in Le Sueur, so they decided to drive to Mankato for some hamburgers and a trip to the zoo.

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