ZOO HISTORY TIMELINE
1800s

Swinea Hall

Resort hotel, Swinea Hall, and private zoo built on acreage that is now Dickerson Park Zoo.

1922

Land Acquired

Estate of Jerome Dickerson, Sr. sold land to the Springfield Park Board.

1923

Dickerson Park Zoo Founded

Dickerson Park established by the Springfield Park Board.

1930s

WPA Work Project

Works Progress Administration helped expand the zoo, but little development continued after the 1930s.

1975

Friends of the Zoo Gets Its Start

With the park on the verge of closing, a revitalization effort with the City of Springfield, Springfield Park Board and a small organization now known as Friends of the Zoo saved the zoo.

1975 - 1985

Improvements & New Positioning

The next 10 years marked significant improvements and a repositioning of the zoo as a valuable cultural asset to the community. The Friends organization developed a membership base, launched education programs and garnered support of donors for new projects and improvements. The City of Springfield committed budget dollars and instituted an admission fee to help offset expenses. The zoo, located on a beautiful tract of land with much potential, had been saved. Now it was time to plan an orderly approach to its future.

1985

A New Master Plan Is Created

The master plan visualized a new zoo, utilizing geographic themes and phased development addressing the mission objectives as guiding concepts. The zoo became involved in several Species Survival Plans, most notably Asian elephants, maned wolves and cheetahs, finding success with each endeavor. In-house and outreach education programs became valuable services offered and used by the community, and fun, family-oriented special events drew large numbers and gained additional support for the growing zoo. The growth of tourism in the region also contributed to increases in attendance and offered visitors to the community another attraction when visiting the Ozarks.

1986

Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Accreditation

The zoo receives accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and has successfully maintained re-accreditation with subsequent reviews. With success comes expectations for additional services and exhibits, and the need for increased revenues for operation of the zoo.

1996

Update Master Plan

An update and revision of the master plan was completed in 1996, and efforts were underway to assure that funding, both private and public, were in place to enable the projects in the master plan to be accomplished by 2010.

2010

Master Plan Realized & Reengineered

By 2010 the Dickerson Park Zoo had accomplished the goals set out in the 1996 master plan. With a passion for protecting wildlife and educating the public, zoo staff and Friends of the Zoo work together to reengineer the zoo’s strategic plan and master plan to lead the zoo into the future. These plans and goals reflect the passions and commitments of a diverse group dedicated to making Dickerson Park Zoo a successful regional leisure destination as well as a leader in conservation education.

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