Meijer Boosts Zoo Donation

July 25, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — If Kent County builds a new wildlife park in Grand Rapids Township, the John Ball Zoological Society will try to raise $25 million in private money to help fund the project’s $166 million construction cost.

At the same time, Fred Meijer has committed the Meijer Foundation to match whatever amount the society raises, up to $25 million.

“We’re obviously delighted and thrilled to announce our commitment to pursue private funding for the project, and we are so very grateful to Fred Meijer and his family for their generosity and vision,” said Brenda Stringer, executive director of the zoological society and interim director of John Ball Zoo.

“Without this matching pledge and dedication to this project we wouldn’t be where we are today,” she added.

Meijer has also offered to donate the land for the project, about 170 acres east of the East Beltline. The Grand Rapids Golf Club currently occupies the property. If a wildlife park is built there, it would be next to the Frederik Meijer Botanical Gardens and Sculpture Park.

“Lena and I are pleased to be able to assist in this venture. If the public supports the concept of a new wildlife park, the Meijer Foundation will help in making it a reality,” wrote Meijer in a letter to the county and zoological society.

The county also hopes to have a portion of the construction cost paid for by a half-mill property tax increase. A millage request could be on the ballot next year, in either August or November.           

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