SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – The workgroup for the Delbridge Museum of Natural History met again Thursday morning and this time museum attendance and taxidermists were the center of the conversations.
To start off the second Delbridge discussion at City Hall, the CEO for the Great Plains Zoo presented the workgroup with some attendance numbers. Becky Dewitz says between 2017 and 2023, the zoo saw 1.66 million visitors.
“Of that, 2.8 (percent) of those visitors spent more than seven minutes in the Delbridge museum itself,” Dewitz said. “So we have 46,000 is what we had attend at the Delbridge according to this data.”
Dewitz says, on average, the zoo sees 300 to 325 field trips or educational tours a year. However, they stopped offering just museum tours in 2015 because there wasn’t strong enough interest in that specific program.
Going forward, some workgroup members would like to see how much interest there actually is in the Delbridge collection.
“I get a little concerned when I see your statistics of the visitation. Because again, there’s the emotional part of saving the animals, which I certainly buy in to very much so,” Jeff Scherschligt, a workgroup member, said. “But at the same point, I’m also a businessman that says, ‘how do you make a business out of this.’ That’s the catch 22. I mean, it is very special but if people, you know, we can’t force people to do what they’re not doing.”
“I think as we move forward, performance indicators are going to have to be at the top of the priority list because, you know, if five people are going to it, there’s no way I’m putting a million dollars into it from a city taxpayer and city trusted advisor of the taxpayer’s dollars,” Sioux Falls City Councilor Alex Jensen said.
The next point of discussion centered around taxidermists and conservationists. Dewitz says a taxidermy company from Texas has agreed to come review the Delbridge collection in early November.
“They’re going to be looking at the collection and determining whether or not they can provide services,” Dewitz said. “This company does do taxidermy restoration, taxidermy cleaning, and they do it all for the Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops, so highly experienced outfit out of Texas.”
However, workgroup members would also like to hear from a conservationist about the collection’s educational value.
“Ultimately, I think what we need to understand first is what’s the integrity of each specimen moving forward based upon the specialist that you’ve identified, Becky,” Erica Beck with the City of Sioux Falls, said. “And then what can we, as a working group, recommend for that collection or each of those specimens based upon these studies.”
The original goal was for the workgroup to propose a draft surplus plan to the Sioux Falls City Council on December 7th. However, the workgroup decided they will likely not be ready by then.
The date for the next workgroup meeting has yet to be determined.