Legacy Projects

About the Legacy Amendment

Legacy Projects are an important part of future planning at the Lake Superior Zoo. In 2008, the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment to the Minnesota Constitution, called the “Legacy Amendment,” was approved by Minnesota voters to: protect drinking water sources; to protect, enhance, and restore wetlands, prairies, forests, and fish, game, and wildlife habitat; to preserve arts and cultural heritage; to support parks and trails; and to protect, enhance, and restore lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater.

Funds from the Legacy Amendment have supported future planning, exhibit restoration, education programming, and historic preservation.

About the Legacy Amendment

The Legacy Amendment increased the state sales tax by three-eighths of one percent from July 1, 2009 through 2034. This sales tax revenue is distributed into the Legacy Amendment’s four funds as follows: 19.75 percent to the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, 33 percent to the Clean Water Fund, 33 percent to the Outdoor Heritage Fund, and 14.25 percent to the Parks and Trails Fund. The Lake Superior Zoological Society (Lake Superior Zoo) has received funding for several programs and projects from the Legacy Amendment’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.



North American Gray Wolf

The Lake Superior Zoo contracted with Keller Fencing to repair the existing wolf habitat next to the new brown bear exhibit located on the West side of Kingsbury Creek. Once the exhibit was complete, three gray wolves joined the Zoo Family: Sierra, Shasta, and Tehama. The exhibit provides a close-up connection with wolves and brings awareness to the conservation issues the gray wolf faces, as well as provide an opportunity to understand how the wolf fits within our various regions.

You can read the report here: Legacy Grant – FY20 Annual Report


Amphibians of Minnesota

Minnesota is home to nineteen species of amphibians including frogs, toads, and salamanders. This exhibit is located across two buildings (Zoo Central and Primate Conservation Center) and has fifteen spaces for animals. The Amphibians of Minnesota exhibit educates our visitors about what an amphibian is, their life cycles, and the differences between the species of frogs and salamanders.


Butterfly House

The Lake Superior Zoo contracted with Spineless Wonders to construct a seasonal exhibit, located near the banks of Kingsbury Creek within the zoo’s perimeter. Once constructed, the exhibit space was populated with native wildflowers and trees to provide nutrients for the butterflies. The exhibit not only showcased butterflies, but provided the educational experience of a butterfly’s life cycle displaying their larvae and chrysalis stages, and interpreting their value as pollinators and the important role they play in the earth’s ecosystem.

You can read the report here: Legacy Grant – FY18 Annual Report


Bear Country Design Project

Lake Superior Zoo contracted with PJA Architects to create schematic and design documents for a new Bear Country exhibit within a portion of the area of land that is currently the former Polar Shores exhibit. The design utilizes some of the existing structure by renovating it to meet or exceed current animal exhibit standards for the brown bear set by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Bear Country will offer our community and visitors from around the region a new and exciting way to learn about animals, natural ecosystems, and conservation.


Zoo Main Building Planning Project

This project reflects a $34,000 FY 2013 appropriation to develop conceptual designs to maximize the use of the Lake Superior Zoo’s main building for educational purposes. All of this $34,000 appropriation will be used for contracted services. The zoo’s main building was built in 1929 as the zoo’s primary exhibit facility for big cats and primates. Renovations completed in 1994 added an Amur tiger exhibit, a two-story primate exhibit, a new gift shop, and a concession area. The zoo’s administrative, guest services, education, marketing, membership, and development offices are also located in this building. Conceptual plans will be used to inform renovations to better accommodate education programs, small animal exhibits, catering, multipurpose areas, informal gathering spaces, and flexible public spaces for school groups, education programs, special events, rentals, and winter programs.

Zoo Environmental Education Expansion

This project reflects a $9,000 FY 2013 appropriation to contract a part-time program development staff to assess community needs, expand zoo education, and develop collaborative programs with area schools and cultural organizations. Of this appropriation, $8,000 will be used for salary/benefits and $1,000 will be used for supplies such as office supplies, phone, and computer equipment. This project will help the zoo develop and expand its environmental education on-site and outreach programs to advance its mission, inspire conservation-friendly attitudes and behaviors, educate individuals and social groups about wildlife and the environment and issues that affect them, and meet guidelines established by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Zoo Cultural Research Project

This project reflects a $16,000 FY 2013 appropriation to work with various local tribal governments and educational institutions to develop and produce educational and interpretive signage connected to our zoo animals and the Indian culture. All of the $16,000 appropriation will be used for contracted services: $9,000 of it will be used for the design and production of signs and $7,000 will be used for a half-time contracted individual. This project will facilitate relationship-building with local tribes and research about the cultural significance of animals indigenous to Minnesota and Northwestern Wisconsin.


Pavilion Preservation Project

The renovated pavilion will facilitate expanding the zoo’s educational and cultural programs, summer camps, theater and dance performances, and special events. It will also serve as a rental venue for parties, picnics, group meetings, and community gatherings.

This project was made possible in part by: The Clean Water Land & Legacy Amendment.

Champion: Donald Weesner Foundation and Carol Cecil Oleson

Leader: Sam Maida, Kathy Spehar, St Louis County, and Jack McLeod

Supporter: Barry & Kang James, Robert & Ann Mars, New London Corporation, Jan Stern, and Robin Lee Moline & Kimberly Moline in memory of Kara Pavelich

Partner: John Carow, Kristin Coenen, Carmel & Christopher DeMaioribus, Dennis & Terry Dunham, Steve & Anita King, Robin Lee Moline, Neale & Pam Roth,David & Melissa Saftner, Jack & Sandra Sellwood, Janice & Thomas Shuey, Russ & Karen Smith, The Interior Tomato, Ann M. Glumac & William Ulland, and Marie & Charles Waugh


New Vision & Master Plan

The first project completed with Legacy Amendment funding was the completion of a new master plan for the Lake Superior Zoo. The project began in November 2009, with consultants from Studio Hanson/Roberts, Main Street Design, and Shultz & Williams, all well known in the business of developing zoos and aquariums. In February 2010, the final plan was approved. The master plan is a comprehensive plan that depicts a clear and achievable vision for the zoo’s future. It also provides a 20-year plan to inform upgrades, interim improvements, programmatic development, and new capital facilities development.

Exhibit Restoration Project

This project developed a new exhibit for gray wolves in a vacant exhibit, which was unsightly and had erosion problems that produced runoff and impacted the St. Louis River, via Kingsbury Creek. During exhibit construction, landscaping and the installation of drain tile resolved the runoff problem. The addition of appropriate fencing and a man-made wolf den (shown at right) created a pleasant habitat for the wolves that now reside there. The legacy funding helped to produce advertising materials, graphics, and signage to promote the new gray wolf exhibit. Legacy funding also helped leverage a grant from the Donald Weesner Charitable Trust to construct an interpretive kiosk and a children’s parallel play area to enhance the exhibit’s educational value.

Zoo Science Experience

With seed money from the Legacy Amendment funding, a pilot program for area third-grade elementary school children called Zoo Science Experience was developed, which provided free zoo admission for the students, teachers and chaperones, a free 30-minute conservation program titled, Zoo ABC’s (Animals, Biodiversity & Conservation), and a memento for each student to take home. The program taught students the roles modern zoos play in education, research, and conservation; the definitions of habitat, ecosystem, biodiversity, and conservation; and what they can do to protect wildlife and natural resources. The program also included a hands-on encounter with a live desert tortoise, a North American animal that is threatened with extinction. This program was designed to meet all four strands of the third-grade curriculum standards in the 2009 Minnesota Academic Standards in Science.

Zoo History Project

The history of the Lake Superior Zoo, formerly the Duluth Zoo, has been researched and compiled for future use. Two contract employees were hired to research news articles from local newspapers, Duluth City Hall, the Northeast Minnesota Historical Center located at the University of Minnesota Duluth, and at the Minnesota Historical Society in the Twin Cities. Additionally, the community was asked to share stories, photographs, and artifacts for this project. All information has been organized in binders and in electronic format for preservation and use in the creation of an exhibit on the zoo’s history.

Zoo History & Heritage Center

In accordance with the zoo’s new master plan, this project proposed to develop a Zoo History & Heritage Center on zoo grounds. At the time of our 2008 application for Legacy Amendment funds, our intention was to build a new structure for this center. During the master planning process, it was determined that restoration of an existing picnic pavilion, built in the 1930s during the Works Progress Administration (WPA) era, would be a more cost-effective strategy that would also develop zoo programs. Once renovated, the pavilion would not only provide an appropriate space for the Zoo History & Heritage Center, but would offer much-needed space for zoo education and conservation programs. Additionally, the pavilion would offer three-season, multi-purpose space for use by community members and organizations for cultural events and education programs. It also would provide revenue-generating, rentable space for public use. Some of the Legacy Amendment funds were used for architect fees, surveys, variance fees, and fencing. This project was combined with a $139,000 FY 2012-2013 Legacy Amendment ACHF appropriation for the “Pavilion Presentation Project” to provide remaining pavilion renovations. The pavilion renovations are now complete and the pavilion is ready for use.