SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – The future of the Delbridge Museum of Natural History at the Great Plains Zoo remains up in the air as a workgroup met for the first time today to come up with a possible solution.
The group is comprised of city councilors, city and zoo officials as well as some community members. Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken has asked the group to come up with a draft surplus plan to present to the full city council in December.
Inside City Hall, a round table discussion is formed with one topic on everyone’s mind: the future of the Delbridge Museum of Natural History.
“I think we have to separate between the zoo and the aquarium future and the collection future,” City Councilor Rich Merkouris said. “We need to make sure that the zoo and the aquarium are set up, they’ve got a sustainable future where they are really building a plan together. If the collection isn’t a part of that, then we as a city have to answer the question — what’s the best decision for the collection.”
“There’s a lot of complex issues here that have to be dealt with from the condition to how much we want to save it to what people are doing around the country to the use of the facilities,” Jeff Scherschligt, a community member in the group, said.
The Delbridge Museum was closed in August because, officials said, arsenic was detected in about 80% of the roughly 150 taxidermy mounts.
“And so over time that chemical leeches through the hide, leeches through hair and exposes itself as dust on the outside of the specimen,” Becky Dewitz, Great Plains Zoo CEO, said.
This first meeting was all about reviewing the information and laying the groundwork for the task this group has been asked to do.
“And I think we agreed upon some specific things that we need information back on,” Merkouris said. “So we need a third-party assessment to understand the condition, understand costs. And we also need some information on the zoo, their ongoing plans and making sure we’re setting up a sustainable future for everybody involved.”
“Hard decisions are not never easy but I think the way they’re going about it, the information that will be gathered, the diversity of the people on the board or the group will come up with the right decision because that’s our task,” Scherschligt said.
The next meeting is scheduled for October 19th at 8 a.m. in city hall and it is open to the public.