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The turtles and the koi who live in the lily ponds near the entrance of the Naples Zoo have been put on notice.
They are about to be evicted.
County officials confirmed Friday that the ponds, which are one of the most recognizable parts of the zoo, will be paved over and the bridge removed to provide for the addition of a service road on zoo property.
"The ponds will ultimately become dry retention areas for the road," said County Parks and Recreation Director Barry Williams. "They will go."
The news is distressing to local artist Paul Arsenault, who has painted the lily ponds for years.
"The Naples Zoo experience starts at the pond, which offers a magical transition from the world of concrete to the world of nature," he said in an email. "I have known for a while that changes were scheduled, but I couldn't imagine that one of them would be to get rid of a treasure in order to facilitate a road. Surely planners can be more sensitive and creative in designing this."
Tim Tetzlaff, the director of conservation and communications for the Naples Zoo, confirmed that the ponds would go, but referred all further comment to his brother, David Tetzlaff, the director of the Naples Zoo.
David Tetzlaff could not be reached for comment Friday.
Matt McLean, the president-elect of the Naples Zoo Board of Directors, said the zoo is hoping to keep a section of the eastern portion of the pond open, adding the fish and turtles will be moved to a pond within the zoo near the butterfly garden. But, he said, the project is moving forward.
"Change is uncomfortable for people," McLean said. "The zoo itself is a story of its own success. We have 300,000 people coming through the gate and we have parking problems. It's inefficient. It can be a whole lot better ...The parking situation is going to be corrected with this project."
The project is part of a plan to redo the entrance to the zoo, Williams said. The county is building a parking lot south of the zoo's property in the area that is now overflow parking, which will be used both for zoo parking and for parking for the Gordon River Greenway.
County officials and the zoo amended the lease in 2010 to swap two 6-acre parcels of land that resulted in the development of the lot. The zoo wanted land north of its border for expansion. The county wanted the land at the zoo's southern edge for the parking lot and canoe-kayak launch for the greenway.
As a result, there will be a new entrance road built into the zoo at Fleischmann Road.
Williams said the zoo and the county will save the large tree near the ponds.
Williams said final permitting for the project is expected to be completed by May or June and construction of the road should start in the fall with the parking lot completed in the spring 2013.
Under the first phase of the road, a service road will be built along the north end of the property and the zoo's back operations will be relocated to the north end of the property, paving the way for the county to construct the parking lot on the south end, Williams said.
That work will take out the ponds, he said.
Arsenault, who does not believe the project will solve the zoo's parking problems, said the public needs to get behind keeping the ponds. He hopes to do that at the zoo on Easter Sunday, asking people to sign petitions and taking photos of people on the bridge.
"This is more of an information gathering. I don't want to get militant and use the word protest. The whole problem is a lack of communication and understanding the problem. ... We are losing a jewel in the crown of the zoo," he said.
In addition, Arsenault said he will also have petitions to save the ponds at his gallery, which is located at 764 12th Ave. S.
McLean said while he understands Arsenault's passion, the project is moving forward.
"We have partnered with the county and the greenway people with the project. The permits are close to being finalized and we hope to go into construction this year. We at the zoo are looking forward to it," he said.