Cameron Park Zoo in Waco is ready to move forward with its latest expansion.

KXXV, Channel 25 reports that voters in McLennan County approved the expansion in last year's election. Since then, COVID-19 happened, and with the pandemic came delays in the start of the work. Now the zoo is ready to resume the planning and development phase.

The $14.5 million dollar expansion will add some new features to the zoo including a penguin exhibit, a veterinary clinic, educational complex, and a hoof stock barn for the African Safari animals.

Looks like the actual building part of the expansion will happen early in 2021.

Johnny Binder, Cameron Park Zoo Deputy Director, tells KXXV's Abby Loring,  “Hopefully we are going to be breaking ground, I would bet right after the first of the year. We’re still in conversations about that, and the construction project may be one and a half to two years.”

So what should we expect once they break ground and start the construction process?
Business as usual. The zoo will stay open throughout the construction.

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Binder said the hoof stock barn will replace an older building in the African Safari zone, and will be the first project undertaken. Plans for the new barn are nearing completion, after which planners will move on to plans for a veterinary and education complex on the southeast side of the zoo's parking lot.

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The new penguin facility called Penguin Shores will be home to warm weather South African penguins, and will be located at the northeast corner of the zoo near the herpetarium off Herring Avenue.

According to Sarah Miller, a writer for wacohistory.org, the Cameron Park Zoo has been a part of Waco's history and character since its humble beginning as a small collection of local wildlife in the 1950's. As that collection grew and more people were interested in visiting, the animals were moved to a pet shop, a fire station, and then a ten-acre site by Lake Waco.

By the late 70's, many people realized it was time to move the animals in the zoo's care to a bigger, better, and more comfortable location. In 1983, a county bond election was held and a measure to move the zoo permanently to Cameron Park passed. In 1993, the zoo Central Texans now know and love opened its doors, and it's been getting better ever since.

If you've never been to the Cameron Park zoo, you should really check it out some time. They've got otters, giraffes, elephants, tigers, and even some African lions, along with all sorts of apes, monkeys, marsupials, fish, and reptiles. It's a cool place to spend time with the family and get kids interested in the natural world.

Cameron Park Zoo is open daily except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. They're taking COVID-19 precautions to protect you and the animals. Hopefully this pandemic will be long over by the time the penguins move in.