The David Traylor Zoo engaged the team of GLMV Architecture/GLMV Zoos, Zoo Management and the Emporia Friends of the Zoo Board of Directors to conduct an integrated strategic planning process that would provide a strategic roadmap for the Zoo for the near future and concepts for the longer term. The project began in the summer of 2018 and concluded in the summer of 2019.
The strategic planning process comprised of four phases:
- Discovery: Where are we now?
- Dreaming: Given no boundaries, where can we go?
- Reality: What can we accomplish?
- Action: How do we get there?
Each phase included a site visit with workshops and leadership team meetings, with conference calls to review progress and confirm the direction in between site visits.
At the onset of the process, GLMV worked with David Traylor Zoo leadership to identify a planning team that would help guide the process and keep it grounded. This team supported developed, served as liaison with other staff and board, managed logistical needs, participated in all workshops and regularly communicated with one another to ensure that the process was on track. The Zoo team included the following:
- Lisa Keith, Zoo Director
- Colleen Mitchell, Education Coordinator
- Rick Mitchell, EFOZ President
- Mark Lee, Horticulturist
- Rob Gilligan, City Commissioner
- Mark McAnarney, City Manager
- Elizabeth Brannan, Animal Collection Manager
For GLMV Zoos, Craig Rhodes served as project lead and Lori Guthridge also participated.
More than a dozen personal interviews were conducted with representatives from the City of Emporia, Lyon County, Chamber of Commerce, Emporia State University, Emporia Friends of the Zoo, Emporia Community Foundation, Convention and Visitors Bureau, Flinthills Technical College, North and South Lyon County Schools, plus additional informal interviews with Zoo staff. To broaden our reach into the community, we also reached into the community with visits to all of the schools in the Emporia School District Number 253, North Lyon County District Number 251 and South Lyon County District Number 252 and also to community organizations such as the Rotary Club, Kiwanis Club, Hispanics of Today and Tomorrow, Flinthills Optimist Club, Sertoma Club, Altrusa and the Lions Club.
Results from this outreach yielded the following information and interests of the many stakeholders:
- David Traylor Zoo is a very valuable asset to the community
- A great place to take out-of-town guests
- Good relationship with City, State, local organizations
- Emporia State University partnerships are exceptional
- Great education programs; especially Zoo Camp and Safari Edventure
- The botanical displays are exceptional
- More charismatic animals; upgrade and increase size of older exhibits
- Walk-through Aviary
- Children's areas (playground)
- Engaging experiences
- Walk-through aviary
- Nature play
- Animal feeding; talks
- Immersive animal exhibits
- Touch tank
- Increased Guest Comfort
- Entrance visibility
- Unisex/Family restroom
- Programs for older adults, special needs individuals
- Additional rental venues
- More animal presentations/talks
- More on-site docent in zoo stations
These findings, together with background organizational data, ultimately informed the development of goals and objectives.
Early in the project, the team revisited and reaffirmed the Zoo's mission statement and developed a vision that influenced the organizations goals and is especially evident in the transformation of the master plan. Another important part of the process was the development of core values- an activity that invited all Zoo staff to help draft a set of values that would guide how the organization does business; how staff and volunteers treat each other and their constituents-beliefs that the organization holds at its very core.
Guided by the mission, vision and core values, and informed by stakeholder input and organizational data, the team identified a number of issues that were then shaped into six goals over the course of a series of workshops and meetings. These six strategic goals influenced the ultimate master design concepts, ensuring a fully-integrated document reflecting a clear and compelling strategic master plan for the future of the David Traylor Zoo of Emporia.
The David Traylor Zoo's Strategic Master Plan is intended to define strategic direction, provide master plan site concepts, and outline a future for conservation.
To provide an environment which inspires respect and stewardship for the natural world, improves the future for wildlife and provides a recreational opportunity for learning about nature and conservation.
A leader in education raising public awareness and commitment to conservation and connecting people to nature to ensure diversity for future generations.
The six values influenced the daily lives and work of the David Traylor Zoo team and reflect the thoughtful input of staff from all areas of the Zoo.
We believe in creating learning opportunities for all and inspiring engagement in conservation of wildlife.
We strive to be an example of sustainability for our guest and community through our business practices, animal care and guest experience.
We strive to be an inclusive point of pride for our community, to be active partners in the welfare of our community and to inspire our community to care for the wild world around them.
We treat each other, all members of our community, and all animals in our care with the highest level of compassion and respect.
We are a learning organization that promotes innovative thinking and creative approaches in all areas of the Zoo. We continue to focus on the transformation of older exhibits to meet modern zoological standards.
We strive to be good caretakers for all that's entrusted to us, our planet, our animals, our Zoo, our coworkers, and our partners who have invested time, care and resources.
The strategic goals are as follows:
- Develop a Compelling Animal Experience That Meets the Highest Standards of Animal Welfare
- Ensure a Sustainable Business Model
- Enhance Learning Opportunities and Guest Experience
- Increase Conservation Impact
- Foster Greater Community Engagement
Goal 1: Develop a Compelling Animal Experience That Meets the Highest Standards of Animal Welfare
Emporia residents and visitors value the Zoo, with its manageable size, friendly atmosphere, and interesting animals, but they want more charismatic animals, more opportunities to get close to the animals, upgrade older exhibits and more interactive experiences. The Zoo's size, location and design offer some real challenges to exhibit design. New master plan concepts and strategic goals address these issues and reflect innovative ideas, modern practices and trends in zoos, aquariums, and related attractions across the country.
- Develop a master plan to feature diversity of species; more charismatic animals and a focus on updating older exhibits.
- Increase conservation relevance of animals and exhibits.
- Ensure best animal care; create greater transparency and highlight the work of our animal care staff.
- Develop immersive animal encounters.
Goal 2: Ensure a Sustainable Business Model
The Zoo is free to the public but the staunch support of the City of Emporia over the years has provided a solid basis for operations; however, revenue growth has been outpaced by expenses, and with implementation of a new Master Plan and improvements to existing facilities needed, increased fundraising is essential. The future success of the Zoo is somewhat compromised without a more sustainable business model that includes both public and private funds, with an increase in earned and contributed revenue.
- Increase earned income: membership fees, program fees, special event fees and gift shop increases.
- Explore future bond initiative or other financing to support the Master Plan.
- Increase fundraising capacity and activities with Emporia Friends of the Zoo.
- Consider small events/activities with good return on investment and low staff impact to showcase the Zoo, increase awareness and revenue.
Goal 3: Enhance Learning Opportunities & Guest Experience
The Zoo's education programs have demonstrated success on a number of fronts: their popular Zoo Camp, KidZoocation and Safari Edventure programs regularly exceeds demand. The focus for the next few years will be to build on this success and create a compelling learning environment for Zoo visitors that's fun-an experience that inspires them to explore and discover science and return in the future. A critical component of this goal is enhancing guest comfort and satisfaction by improving amenities and providing easy access throughout the site.
- Expand programs for older adults, special needs individuals.
- Improve wayfinding and accessibility.
- Enhance guest learning experiences-encounters, docent in zoo, etc.
- Add new guest amenities such as parking, family restroom, entrance that is easy to find.
- Improve interpretation at current exhibits and increase opportunities for interaction Zoo-wide.
- Expand strategic partnerships with school districts.
Goal 4: Increase Conservation Impact
The Zoo's Conservation Plan details specific conservation programs, priorities, and strategies for expanding and implementing the Zoo's conservation program, while the strategic plan and master plan provide "big picture" goals and site concepts for conservation initiatives. Developing and adopting this trilogy of plans concurrently ensures the best integrations of organizational goals, site concepts, and conservation programming wit the best use of limited human and financial resources.
- Align the Zoo's Conservation Plan with the strategic plan and identify resource needs.
- Integrate conservation initiatives with animals, exhibits, programs, communication.
- Increase funding for conservation.
- Implement/advance sustainable practices and resource management.
- Develop strategies to increase awareness of David Traylor Zoo's conservation program.
Goal 5: Foster Greater Community Engagement
The Zoo is already a valued part of the Emporia community; a community that values time spent with family and friends, being outdoors and attending events at Emporia State, the Granada Theatre, Arts Center and other venues-a community with growth in its future. Partnerships thrive with Emporia State and Lyon County schools allowing new opportunities for programming, internships, staff engagement, visitation and facilities are possible. The David Traylor Zoo enjoy a strong relationship with the City and has benefited from sustained funding commitments for decades. The City, Emporia State, and community leaders have been part of the planning process, and as the Zoo grows, their support will be even more essential.
- Explore additional/expanded partnerships with Emporia State, Schools, Libraries and Others.
- Explore additional opportunities with Flinthills Technical College and Hills communities.
- Explore membership strategies to increase revenue, enhance member participation, and further engage the community at large.
- Promote Zoo common space for rental (meeting space).
The Zoo's Master Plan is built on six guiding principles that reflect the strategic plan and drive phasing of projects:
- Animal welfare and conservation impact
- Define and Update existing site assets
- Marquee exhibits/experiences
- Mix of guest amenities, play spaces, interactive experiences
- Cost-effective design/construction staging and implementation
- Projects of opportunity - lower cost, can stand alone, and deliver visible impact
The plan is designed to be implemented in phases over 20 to 30 years, with the estimated capital cost for the three phases and projects of opportunity at approximately $32 million. Each of these phases includes:
- Upgrading older exhibits and at least one "marquee" exhibit
- Conservation project opportunities
- Guest amenities, interaction and educational experiences
- Revenue generating initiatives
Highlights of the plan include a new Zoo Entrance/Memorial Plaza (fully funded and the first project to be funded and completed in 2021), Renovated North American Waterfowl Exhibit (fully funded and completed in 2021), Renovation of the King Vulture exhibit, North American River Otter, New parking lot and Renovated and expanded Zoo Education Center, New Bobcat/Red Fox exhibit, Renovated Cinereous Vulture Exhibit, New Event Space with Caterers Kitchen, New Restroom facility on East end of Zoo, Nature Play Area, Renovated hoof stock exhibits and leaving space for animals in need of conservation.
Implementing the master plan will enhance the education and conservation of the Zoo and position it as a vital, re-imagined regional asset.
The David Traylor Zoo saves wildlife and envisions a world where everyone lives sustainably with wildlife and their habitats.