A new, safari-themed park is set to open in the Grove City area next summer, under the direction of New Castle’s Living Treasures Animal Park.
The park will be located on 140 acres along Route 258 and will feature African and North American bus safaris, animal breeding programs, a ropes course and pavilions for special events and weddings, reported Living the Grove, Grove City’s lifestyle blog.
Beth Black, the executive director of the Grove City Area Chamber of Commerce, said she is looking forward to the new park.
“We think it will be a nice addition to the Grove City area and will offer families entertainment, education and a unique opportunity to see these animals up close,” she said. “In addition, it will be a wonderful destination for the millions of visitors we get to our community each year.”
Adam Guither, the owner of Living Treasures and the new zoo, told Living the Grove he expects 200,000 to 300,000 guests to visit the park in its first season, bringing increased profits to the Grove City area.
The park is to be of benefit to wildlife as well, Living the Grove reported.
“If Africa kills off their native population of cheetahs or rhinos, it may be places like Living Treasures that help repopulate those areas,” Guither said. “Not everything has been decided because there’s a lot of approvals and permits you have to get first, but these programs may very well save certain species.”
However, Tom Guither, Adam Guither’s father and the owner and director of the independent Living Treasures Animal Park in Donegal, Pennsylvania, was cited in August by a United States Department of Agriculture inspector for violations to the Animal Welfare Act, reported WTAE.
Violations listed in the article consisted of possible malnutrition in a lion cub, repeated mite infestations in a wolf, improper follow-up care for a monkey with a fractured arm, failure to keep accurate acquisition and disposition records of animals and poor staff supervision of guests interacting with animals.
While, according to the Living Treasures website, the two zoos have no legal connections, both Living Treasures parks lack accreditation by the Zoological Association of America, despite the younger Guither’s membership.
A full list of ZAA accredited facilities is available on the organization’s website and includes other nearby zoos, such as the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium.
Additionally, many people living in the Grove City area are displeased with plans for the park, citing concerns for traffic, safety, privacy and the contamination of the water table due to exotic animal waste, Trib Total Media reported.
However, Guither was issued a conditional use permit to operate the 140 acre property, which means he will be required to abide by all local and federal regulations, as well as regulations by the Department of Environmental Protection, the article noted.
Several Slippery Rock University students have high hopes for the new park, including Angela Barbaro, a senior safety management major.
“People hear ‘Slippery Rock’ and don’t really know anything about it,” she said. “A new attraction might shed new light on this area.”
Paige Raines, a freshman public health major, thinks the safari will be a new way for students to branch out off-campus, rather than “just going shopping.”
“If I could pet a tiger I would be really, really happy,” she said.
Shane Schleifer, a senior health and physical education major, echoed Raines’ thoughts.
“It’ll give Slippery Rock students more to do in the area other than just getting food or seeing a movie,” he said.
However, Schleifer, who lives locally, noted that plans to open the park have been delayed several times now and doubts that it will be open before his latest expected graduation date in December of 2016.
The park is expected to have over 100 species of animals, including rare species such as the white rhino, Living the Grove reported. In later stages, the site may also include a water park and treetop hotels.
“This will be the perfect place for field trips,” Guither told Living the Grove. “I want kids and adults to fall in love with the environment when they come here.”