Renewed energy to deliver pony trail back to Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – To Kristin Bodkin, the ponies at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, are like family. She liked the pony rides when she was a little one and now her son cannot hold out to get on the trail much too.

“That’s the to start with put we go just about every time we check out the zoo. He appreciates all the ponies by identify,” Bodkin mentioned.

It’s a equivalent tale for James Kahn’s household.

“I’m 42 and it was a massive deal when I was a kid to appear and get to experience the ponies,” he reported. “We can’t inform our daughter that we’re coming to the zoo simply because then we’re asked how a lot of times she receives to experience the ponies and if we can go there very first. We have to strategically approach our journey to the zoo close to the pony rides so that we can see other factors far too.”

Content from 1965 when the zoo to start with opened listing the pony rides as an attraction. The Hooley spouse and children took above the pony path in 1981 and has been operating it considering that.

Very last 12 months, the zoo declared the pony rides would not be back this season because of building for the new Pink Panda Ridge exhibit. The zoo originally stated it would make a decision on if and when the pony rides would return in December 2021, but there even now have not been any bulletins.

“Anytime there is adjust, you’re heading to have thoughts and you’re likely to have considerations,” Chris Gomez, the zoo’s board president, explained in an interview with WANE 15 earlier this yr.

Even though conversing to Gomez about the zoo’s new director, Rick Schuiteman, WANE 15 also requested him about the pony path.

“It was a lot more economical for us to do the construction on Crimson Panda Ridge by coming by means of that aspect. It was significant dollars and staying fiscally dependable to the neighborhood and all those who aid the zoo, this is however the appropriate conclusion,” Gomez reported.

WANE 15 requested an job interview with Schuiteman for this story, but it was declined. In its place, the zoo spokeswoman claimed in an email, “Due to the construction of Crimson Panda Ridge, we will not be offering the Pony Trail this year.  Crimson Panda Ridge is scheduled to open up Summertime of 2023.  We have not built any decisions on the future of the Pony Trail.”

In a abide by-up e-mail, WANE 15 requested when the zoo could make a choice and what it was thinking about to make that final decision, but those people queries weren’t answered.

“I think creating the zoo far better is often a fantastic notion,” Bodkin reported. “If you glimpse back at previous reimaginations, seem at Monkey Island, for example. It was an initial show to our zoo and they just created it greater. So let’s convey back the pony trail and make it even greater.”

Bodkin just produced a new web-site,, for people today to exhibit their assist for bringing the pony path again.

“It’s now pre-loaded and you just have to enter your name. You can leave it as is or you can include to it or delete it completely and share your tale. All of that information and facts will be compiled and supplied to zoo management and their board of directors. Just so hopefully they can make the best decision possible for our group and our youngsters,” Bodkin explained.

An on the internet petition made final fall now has extra than 7,000 signatures.

“The group truly requirements to talk up and permit the zoo leadership know that this is essential and that we want it to arrive back again,” Bodkin claimed.

We have truly savored our forty-calendar year partnership with the zoo and the option to provide the Fort Wayne local community. We would appreciate to return and support continue on to fulfill the zoo’s mission of “connecting young children and animals, strengthening people and inspiring people today to care.”

– The Hooley Household

Bodkin adds that the prospect for little ones to assist feed and groom the ponies together the pony path is also priceless.

“It’s palms-on and that’s how little ones find out finest and it truly offers them a connection to the animals,” she claimed. “I appreciate our zoo. It is an remarkable position for children and this community and I have observed that this is either their initial expertise with horses or their only opportunity to experience horses.”

Kahn hopes the zoo will make a decision in favor of the pony trail coming back again.

“It feels like a Fort Wayne institution that’s kind of stepping absent and ideally they’ll reconsider. It presents so considerably joy to have [the kids] interact and to journey and pet and get to know the ponies,” he mentioned.

Immediately after the zoo closed for the season last calendar year, the Hooley ponies went to the Blackstone Ranch in southwest Allen County. The new ranch supplied an possibility to continue on pony rides via the wintertime.

Bodkin’s built a couple outings for pony rides at the ranch, but continue to hopes they will return to the zoo.

“It tends to make the most perception for them to be there. It’s just the excellent location for them and I hope they come again.”