Written by Aaron-Michael Fox.
The dream of a great number of Huntingtonians over many years is finally coming true as a new Huntington Zoo & Aquarium is coming soon to 58 acres west of the city in rural Wayne County.
According to McKee, the HZA is a phased project to be completed over the next 5-7 years that will ultimately become an entire zoological and conservation campus. The plan will start with 58 acres, but they hope to expand to more than 100 acres.
“The overall goal is to build a massive state-of-the-art reptile house, science museum for all ages, 1.5 million-gallon aquarium with global marine life represented, numerous indoor and outdoor playgrounds, a splash park, amphitheater, exotic animal veterinary clinic, multiple external biomes and exhibits with ‘free-range’ animals, a rainforest-style restaurant, wetlands conservation areas, botanical garden, and numerous nature trails,” said McKee.
Nobody expects this to happen overnight, as the local and state team have already spent five years planning this endeavor. But it’s what the community “needs and deserves,” said McKee.
According to the Zoo’s Facebook page that was launched last week, the project is currently in phase I, which includes site acquisition, creating investment partnerships, permitting, infrastructure surveys, and preliminary staffing.
Fortunately, the Zoological Society of West Virginia (ZSWV) was recently formed and is dedicating their 2022-23 #CapitalCampaign to making HZA a reality.
“The ZSWV is our strategic partner with their own governing board that raises money for zoological and conservation projects like ours here in our community, the region, and all around the world,” said McKee.
One of the many exciting things about the future Huntington Zoo & Aquarium is that it is structured as a for-profit venture that has a non-profit partnership with the Zoological Society of West Virginia. This project is estimated to create hundreds of jobs, drastically change our local and regional economic topography, and will be able to generate millions of dollars in revenue each year for our state. -Andy McKee
The HZA is currently looking for a select few investors who share in the mission of inspiring wildlife and environmental conservation through education. These investors, along with the Zoological Society’s funding, will be key in bringing the spotlight to our region and making the Huntington Zoo & Aquarium a dream come true.
McKee says they hope to have phase I completed and construction started within two years. For more information, or to become a founding member of the “Zoo Crew,” message them on Facebook.