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4-H fairgrounds moving, Idaho Falls Zoo may have new education center

The 4-H fairgrounds in Idaho Falls will be moving to a new location, and the current location on Rollandet Street may be bought by the city.

If all goes well, the 4-H fairgrounds will turn into an extension of the Idaho Falls Zoo for its new education center.

Bonneville County will keep part of the property, but the area with the stables and will be used for the Zoo’s education center.

“We were excited to hear what the current zoo director would be able to do with this. His excitement for the building and how it would enhance the zoo, really gave us a good opportunity to do something in cooperation with the city,” said Bryon Reed, a Bonneville County Commissioner.

Earlier this year, the zoo accepted a $500,000 donation from William J. Maeck for a new education center. The 4-H fairgrounds is where the city is planning to put it — a larger location for the largest attendance of guests the zoo has ever seen

“When you see 158,000 people through your institution in 6 short months, that’s a lot of educational opportunity that goes down the drain when you don’t have an appropriate facility to provide the education that your mission demands,” said David Pennock, the Idaho Falls Zoo executive director.

Talks are moving forward with the city to acquire the county-owned property because the current one isn’t up to par.

“Currently we have an education center that is one third of this 1930s building, right here behind me. We can fit a very small number of people in this one tiny little classroom. The fire codes is like eight people or something like that,” Pennock said. “Our community’s come together in an extraordinary way with the money necessary to build a new education center that is appropriate for a regionally significant zoo like the Idaho Falls zoo.”

And the 4-H facility isn’t disappearing, its moving to a new location onto 30 acres of land just south of Sandy Downs.

“We’ve outgrown our current location, which is why we’re surprising this property. We hope to just be able to build a really nice 4H facility out there that will last well into the next century,” Reed said.

The city of Idaho Falls and Bonneville County will hold their own public hearings in the future, and they have to do so before the sale moves forward.

The goal is to have the education center under construction by next summer.

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