The weather was perfect today, sunny but not too hot, and I was getting itchy feet to go somewhere so I decided on Benson Park which was once a popular zoo that closed, I think in the 1980’s, and then rotted for a good long time before the town decided to make it into a lovely park. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I’d been promised I could play in empty zoo enclosures so I was in.
I have been to plenty of roadside zoos and I figured that’s what this would be… I figured it’d be some rotted fencing jutting out of an embankment in the woods somewhere but actually it’s smack dab in the middle of civilization and has a huge parking lot to boot. Upon entering I noticed three things: A nursing home, not affiliated but still right there, a dog park in what was probably a zoo cage at one point, and a TON of kids playing on brand new playground equipment. So this old zoo somehow became a place to house old people, dogs, and children. Seemed odd but oddly fitting…
I wandered where I pleased. Although there were trails here with names they were insanely poorly marked, and by that I mean pretty much not marked at all except for one wooded section that might make city dwellers think they’d die if they wandered off too far… That was the best though, as it was in the far corner and super quiet. The vegetation had grown so out of control it grew around and over the paths making this sort of whimsical lush green tunnel. Swamp lands abounded, as did vague signs about being on the moose path. I had a weird moment of realization that this once could have been the home of tigers and wildebeest, things that should have never lived in this part of the world, things that could easily kill. Were their ghosts still lingering?
There wasn’t much left to the old zoo but the buildings that remained were under reconstruction. I got to walk up to an idle ticket booth, an “elephant house” turned gift store, some sort of cage I am hoping the elephant didn’t live in, and another very depressing wrought iron prison used for the gorilla. Apparently they had one silver back gorilla, living in solitary isolation in a cage I would find the appropriate size for a small flock of chickens. That is where I left off and the place made me feel SAD. I could just imagine the poor beast pacing the tiny concrete floor in his own Victorian Hell. Say what you will about zoos – at least the ones these days aren’t that damn depressing!
As an added bonus I got to spend some time with some really tame Canadian geese and their awkward and ugly little goslings, almost as big as their parents but still sporting little tufts of fuzz. This was delightful surprise and made me ache to be back living on a free range farm. It reminded me what a peaceful and fulfilling experience it is to live amongst the animals. It has once again solidified my determination to make this a reality in the future. Sigh, someday!
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