KNOXVILLE, Md. — The staff at Zoo Knoxville has been working hard to safely reopen to visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic and it announced Friday that they will officially reopen on May 18.
The zoo has been closed since March 16.
The zoo will be open for passive outdoor use only, which means playgrounds, indoor areas, and interactive experiences will remain closed for now.
They will also limit the number of people visiting the zoo at one time by requiring visitors to advance purchase tickets for a specific time. Circle of Friends members and annual passholders will still get in free, but they must reserve their spot and time.
The zoo has added more than 30 additional hand sanitizing stations throughout zoo grounds and restaurants have modified their ordering and delivery systems to minimize contact.
For the safety of other visitors, the staff and the animals, the zoo would like visitors to:
- Wear a mask or face covering
- Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer stations throughout the zoo frequently
- Maintain 6 feet of physical distance between groups
- Use ground markings and directional signs to maintain safe distancing in areas where people may gather
- Stay home if you are sick or in a high-risk group
"We have been very, very deliberate in our planning,” said President and CEO of Zoo Knoxville, Lisa New. “We are reopening responsibly so our guests have a safe, secure environment to return to and they can feel confident their safety is our top priority. We also need to keep our staff healthy so the care of our animals is not impacted. We are grateful for the support of our community and we hope we can give our guests the opportunity to experience some feeling of normalcy during this time.”
To celebrate, the zoo is offering tickets at a reduced price of $14.95 for adults and $11.95 for children ages 4-12 and seniors over 65. Kids 3 and under are free. Tickets and entry times can be purchased and reserved at www.zooknoxville.org.
"There are lots of things we are doing to get ready," she said.
To make the zoo safer for everyone, it will be open for passive use only, meaning visitors can walk through and see the animals, but most buildings and play spaces will remain closed.
"The zoo is beautiful. It's in full bloom," said New. "All the animals are out and active."
The restrooms will be open, but under social distancing guidelines and they will be sanitized regularly.
The zoo will also limit the number of visitors who are there at one time. To do that, all tickets will have to be purchased online or over the phone. They will be for specific dates, and people will not be able to buy tickets at the gate.
Annual pass holders must reserve a time for their visit by clicking the annual pass button on the website.
RELATED: Zoo Knoxville was taking precautions to keep animals safe even before a tiger caught coronavirus
All zoo staffers will be wearing masks, to protect each other, the visitors, and the animals.
Masks are not required for guests but are strongly encouraged for the protection of other people and the animals. You will be able to purchase masks at the zoo.
Hand sanitizer stations will be available throughout the zoo, and there will be staff members available to address any safety concerns.
"We can't wait to see you," New said.