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ERAU Honors Students Renovate Playground at Heritage Park Zoo
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08 March 2017   Keaton Ziem

Heritage Park Zoo gets a bit of a facelift, thanks to ERAU Honors students.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Honors Student Association (HSA) at the Prescott campus, known as the ‘activity arm’ of the Honors Program, is an assembly of students who work hard to become well-rounded individuals while also serving their communities. Their dedication is not only in increasing the impact of their minds through education, but also in improving their communities through action and awareness. One way in which they have sought to give back to Prescott is by undertaking a new service project helping to restore the overall appearance and safety of the community’s beloved Heritage Park Zoo.

“We were initially motivated to work on a service project with animals, which led us to the zoo,” explained Victoria Nelson, Aerospace Engineering Honor Student who participated in the renovation of the zoo’s family playground. “Our team has some funding to aid in the completion of this project, and even though we’re not working directly with the animals, keeping the zoo safe and appealing for its visitors brings in funding that can be put toward aiding animal rehabilitation.”

The animals rely on the zoo and its employees for their lives, while also being an exciting and educational outlet for the youth of Prescott to gain an interest in biology and environmental science. “Upon further investigation,” Nelson continued, “we found out that the zoo does not receive funding from the city, but had several projects that needed completion.” In response, the HSA has put forward a modest and viable financial volunteer plan that will ensure the safety of children visiting the park and improve the social environment of the zoo as a whole.

The HSA’s agenda is to address the structural foundation of the zoo’s playground, which is often the first-stop parents and their children visit upon arrival. The HSA has assessed a list of improvements that can be made to the playground’s fixtures to ensure children and parents can play at ease. “The zoo has many families that buy memberships primarily for regular use of the playground, but the playground was in an unsafe state. By repairing it, we hope to allow families to continue to bring children there and make happy memories.”

This renovation process includes not just the fundraising and financial planning, but also the gathering of necessary resources, the physical labor of construction, painting and landscaping as well.

“Many of us do not have extensive construction experience, which posed some challenges. Luckily for us, the zoo’s maintenance staff has been very helpful in assisting us and allowed us to have a very valuable learning experience.”

The HSA plans to coordinate alongside the Heritage Park Zoo, as well as the Embry-Riddle ROTC team, in order to accomplish these tasks. In all, the HSA’s goal is to make a total of over $500 worth of structural improvements to the zoo by the project’s completion.

When asked what she and her classmates will ultimately take away from the experience they’ve gained in renovating the zoo’s playground, apart from their contribution to the zoo and the animals being rehabilitated within it, Nelson said, “Our class focused on understanding teamwork, so this project has challenged us to work more effectively in groups and become better individual workers.”