MONROE, La. (KTVE/KARD) – During a press conference at the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo, Monroe mayor Friday Ellis announced new additions coming to the Monroe Zoo and Forsythe Park.

City officials hope new exhibits will engage people and improve their encounters with animals.
This is only the first phase of the three-part Master Plan. That entire project is expected to be completed over a 12-year period.

This main attraction on the South side of Monroe comes after Monroe City Council approved the resolution for construction of the Louisiana Purchase Exhibit Phase 1, which includes new exhibits and making the pathways more ADA accessible.

“Phase one is going to be great. We are going to focus on the Louisiana Purchase Exhibit. The whole goal is to make you feel like this is authentically a Louisiana Purchase experience when you walk through it,” said Monroe mayor, Friday Ellis.

This authentic experience once was the vision of the zoo’s director, Tom Pearson.
The master plan is estimated to cost $1.1 million and it is funded by the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Ouachita Parish Police Jury, and other sources.

Communications Director for the city of Monroe, Michelli Martin says they hope to improve the experience of patrons by offering a variety of interactive exhibits.

“We have otters, beavers. We have an alligator exhibit that is going to be coming as well. So, it is just exciting. There is a sloth exhibit that is being built currently. We want to offer a different level here at the zoo.”

Other features will include five new ponds and a lagoon. Mayor Ellis says they hope this project can attract more visitors from outside the area.

“The more people we bring here the more people we have here in our town, the better the city of Monroe is.”

With more people coming to the city, officials say security will always be a priority.

“No, they should not be concerned about security. Stuff can happen anywhere and we are going to do our very best to respond to it accordingly,” said Martin. “We are just looking forward to the projects that are coming. We are looking forward to bringing not just more people from the city but more people from the region.”

During the press conference at the zoo, additions to Forsythe Park were also discussed.

The Monroe West Monroe Convention Visitors Bureau donated a $1.8 million grant for the expansion of the tennis courts.

Dates on when everything will be built and finished are to be determined.