Several long-awaited improvements to update the front entrance and build new bathrooms are under way at the Charles Paddock Zoo in Atascadero.
The zoo will remain open during construction, which is expected to continue into early next year.
The national Association of Zoos and Aquariums tabled the city-owned zoo’s accreditation in March — giving Atascadero one year to address concerns about needed maintenance projects. The zoo was also asked to improve its relationship with the Central Coast Zoo Society.
The association was concerned that the society was not doing enough to provide financial support for the zoo. The society has since reformed its board and is trying new fundraising approaches.
The zoo, established in 1955, is one of the smallest accredited zoos in the nation. It was first accredited in 1991 and remains accredited during the renewal process.
An accreditation team, formed by zoological peers nationwide, is expected to visit the zoo next month to assess its progress.
While the restroom construction is under way, the renovation to the front entrance — a new admission window and gift shop — will begin in the next few weeks, said Brady Cherry, Atascadero’s community services director.
A temporary entrance will be installed near the grassy area where the owl exhibit is, he said.
Zoo director Alan Baker said he is pleased with the progress, adding that smaller improvements have also been made.
“We had a backlog of some projects we wanted to do, and the city sent a maintenance team to help us accomplish those,” Baker said.
New plants and fences have been put in, animal displays painted and roofs replaced, he said. “The zoo is looking a lot nicer,” Baker said. “We are doing everything we can to be ready for the (accreditation) team’s inspection next month.”