Despite the frigid temperatures the Ecomuseum officially reopened its doors to the public Friday morning to a line of eager guests.
More than 150 visitors are expected to venture into the West Island park on its second opening day since being forced to close in October amid the surging coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s been time for us reopen for a while but it’s really good it’s happening now,” Executive Director David Rodrigue said.
While Rodrigue is relieved and excited to see people enjoy the zoo, a cloud of concern looms overhead with fears of what yet another lockdown could do.
“All we can hope for is that measures are respected and people take them seriously so we don’t go through another phase where lockdowns are put into effect,” Rodrigue said.
Prior to the pandemic, the zoo on the West Island only ever closed on Christmas Day. Last year they were shuttered for a total of seven months as repeated waves of COVID-19 cases led to the government locking down all but essential services.
The forced closures have put a significant finical strain on the non-profit organization. Rodrigue says it survived only because of donations.
“We’re lucky we have a lot of support from the community. We had a good year in 2019 and 2018,” Rodrigue said. “People appreciate what we do it but again there is a line.”
In preparation for reopening, the non-profit organization spent an estimated $70,000 on COVID-19-related expenses to ensure the facility is up to safety standards. Throughout the site, hand sanitizer dispensers, clear plastic shielding walls and signage have been put in place.
As an added measure, despite being outside, the zoo has made it mandatory for visitors to wear a mask while on site.
“We don’t want a third wave shutting everything down again, so that is our way of assuring people we have maximum safety here,” Rodrigue said.
The zoo is expecting a warm welcome with up to 500 people already preregistered to visit over the weekend.