The removal of a billboard in Gulf Shores has stirred questions about the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo and their plans to re-locate and build a new zoo north of the intracoastal waterway.
For 25 years the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo has been located in the heart of Gulf Shores on 17 acres. A plan to move the zoo to higher ground was born after hurricane Ivan forced the evacuation of the hundreds of animals.
"That's one thing we know how to do," says zoo director Patti Hall.
Now a billboard advertising the zoo's new location is gone, raising concerns. "Nothing has changed with the development," says board of directors president Steve Jones. "The location is no longer being advertised."
A variance allowing the advertisement expired and the sign was removed. "And I know it's caused a lot of people to assume that we are not moving, but that's is totally false," says Hall. "We still have plans to move."
Back in 2009 when the new zoo plans were announced it seemed the zoo could be built any day. Supplies were brought in, land was cleared, even buildings built. But three years later the question remains will a new zoo ever be built.
Jones blames the economy on unsuccessful efforts to raise money to build. "It's going to require an awful lot of funding and the donors we had hoped would have come forward have not been so forthcoming."
While he didn't have a specific figure he says hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised for the new zoo. "At this time there is simply not enough money to sustain construction."
Moving the animals is still the plan. "It's time too," says Hall. "Yes, we have too." How to pay for it continues to be the issue.
The new zoo was billed as "The Amazing Green Zoo" the first environmentally sustainable zoo.
The cost to build the first phase of the new zoo was estimated to be around 15 million dollars in 2010.