The recent editorial supporting the current expansion plan of the Oakland Zoo glosses over several critical facts: The unnecessary destruction of rare and irreplaceable habitat, the commoditization of public assets for private gain, the unfunded financial obligations the city will be "gaining," and the loss to many Bay Area families of access to their own wild parkland in favor of "national" attention.
Knowland Park is a wild and spectacularly beautiful place right now, providing dramatic views, multiple habitats, California wildlife, trails for hiking, and grasslands for picnicking and enjoying the views -- all free and accessible to the public.
I have never known a beautiful, wild place that was improved by the addition of dozens of buildings, a gondola, grading, paved walks, a $15 admission fee and an 8-foot-high, chain-link perimeter fence.
The site that the zoo wants is not even close to its existing footprint.
In fact, there's plenty of already disturbed land immediately adjacent to the zoo where the expansion could be done, minimizing damage to Knowland Park. But the zoo refuses to consider alternate sites.
Most telling is that the zoo has refused to sign a conservation easement to protect the remainder of Knowland Park beyond its proposed expansion area.
The zoo is proposing a dramatic expansion. Since it claimed in its A1 campaign that it did not have the funds to maintain the current facilities and animals, one wonders how it will fund a vastly expanded zoo. Certainly it will ask the city, county and the taxpayers for more money and increasing ticket prices.
The zoo has deferred maintenance on the existing facilities (city owned), increasing the city's financial liability, while at the same time it has diverted funds to public relations and administrative costs. Because the zoo's most basic charge is to take care of the existing animals and facilities, why isn't the zoo being held accountable?
And finally, why the need to make the zoo a "national attraction?" Shouldn't it serve the people here first and not take money and land from us and deprive us of the best part of our wildest park? Shouldn't it practice what it preaches about habitat conservation instead of putting up a monument to animals that used to live here but were driven out by habitat loss? Or is habitat conservation only for people in other places such as Africa and Borneo?
Knowland Park is not a developed place despite the park name. It is a wild place in an urban setting -- a rare and wonderful thing. It is the home of many native California animals and a refuge for city dwellers. It deserves to be cherished, protected and enjoyed for its best and highest purpose -- open, public, wildland space.
Beth Würzburg is an Oakland resident.