We are at a crossroads for the issue of the future of the lily pond at the Naples Zoo on Goodlette-Frank Road. Advocates for preserving every square inch of the vast water feature which starts at the very edge of the road and reaches eastward, even beyond the scenic walking bridge many zoo patrons use to get from the parking lot to the fun.
Some zoo officials counter by saying the pond is artificial and patrons arriving from Fleischman Boulevard need direct access across Goodlette-Frank. They insist the pond will not be paved over — only sodded to hold storm water runoff — and progress has been part of the zoo's long-range master plan ever since voter approval for county ownership.
Options for which way to go come with varying intensity of impact to the zoo property and varying price tags. The zoo and its managing partners, the Tetzlaff family, have a vested interest in the option chosen by county commissioners. They share in the costs 50/50.
Against that background, and with appreciation for passionate proponents of both sides of this robust civic discussion — which shows we still can really care about traditions — we propose a compromise. We are drawn to the access option that calls for saving most but not all of the pond and saving a lot of money, over the options that would protect the pond all together.
We believe so called Option B would protect the essence and charm of the pond while accomplishing the enhanced access that the zoo and the community need.
That route would cost $135,000-$165,000, compared to up to $720,000 for total preservation.
We understand that is not going to make some pond preservation activists happy. It probably isn't going to please the zoo and all its leaders either.
But the reality of today is that money is an object. There is no bottomless pot of gold anymore.
And yes, the zoo has earned the privilege to develop into all that it can be. Zoo leadership knows what it's doing — except when it comes to public relations. The community would not have gone through this painful and divisive controversy if the zoo had been more up front with the public from the start. A series of little noticed "public" planning meetings for insiders does not suffice for a project in which the public is so heavily financially and aesthetically invested.