The Naples Zoo is preparing to pave over the lily ponds near its entrance to add a service road to improve parking, the Naples Daily News reported.
Collier County Parks and Recreation Director Barry Williams said Friday that “the ponds will ultimately become dry retention areas for the road.”
The president-elect of the zoo’s board of directors, Matt McLean, told the newspaper that the zoo hopes to keep one section of the ponds open, and said the turtles and koi who live there will be moved to another pond.
"Change is uncomfortable for people," McLean said. "The zoo itself is a story of its own success. We have 300,000 people coming through the gate and we have parking problems. It's inefficient. It can be a whole lot better ... The parking situation is going to be corrected with this project.”
Paul Arsenault, who has painted the lily ponds for years, said in an email to the paper that “the Naples Zoo experience starts at the pond, which offers a magical transition from the world of concrete to the world of nature.”
"I have known for a while that changes were scheduled, but I couldn't imagine that one of them would be to get rid of a treasure in order to facilitate a road. Surely planners can be more sensitive and creative in designing this,” said Arsenault, who plans on gathering petitions at the zoo on Easter Sunday to save the ponds and taking photos of zoogoers on the bridge.
The zoo and county plan to keep a large tree near the ponds.
The parking lot should be done by next spring, the newspaper said.