To create excitement and stir passion in every visitor to become a champion of our natural world.
We connect your life to wildlife while inspiring lifelong learning and conservation action.
Akron Zoo History
The Early Years
The roots of the Akron Zoo date back to the early 1900’s and the gift of Perkins Park to the City of Akron to be used for ‘the enjoyment of children’. Two brown bears were donated, and a facility appropriate for the era was built in the park.
In 1950, a small museum of Natural History was also incorporated. In 1953, the museum was expanded to include the Akron Children’s Zoo, a menagerie of Mother Goose themes. The zoo flourished during the 50’s and 60’s.
In the late 1970’s, the Board of Directors offered to become the governing body of the zoo. In 1980, the Board of Directors finalized contractual agreements with the City of Akron and became one of the first zoos in the country to privatize and become a non-profit organization. Mother Goose displays were changed to more natural exhibits, and animals from the Americas were added to the collection. The zoo’s name was changed to the Akron Zoological Park.
In 1989, the Akron Zoo was accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) for the first time. The Akron Zoo has achieved accreditation without interruption since 1989.
During the 1990’s, the zoo focused on its mission and goals and began to expand and create new exhibits that expanded its collection to include animals from around the world and increase involvement in wildlife conservation, while making it a more financially sound institution. Exhibits constructed in 1998 and 1999 reflected the zoo’s mission. In 1999, a new master plan was created to reflect the zoo’s plans over the next fifteen years. The master plan, which included tax support, doubled the size of the zoo and greatly increased the number of animals in the collection. The plan also aggressively increased the educational opportunities made available to the community.
In 2000, the Akron Zoo passed its first property tax, which committed $8.1 million a year to the zoo. The levy is a seven year levy and was renewed in 2006 and 2013. This support allowed the zoo to embark on a number of capital improvements which doubled the number of animal exhibits and increased the number of animals in the zoo’s care by 200% over the past 15 years.
At this time the zoo was able to secure a 99-year lease of additional land from the City of Akron and the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority, which more than doubled the size of the zoo. Currently, the zoo occupies 77 acres of which 35 acres are developed with exhibits, guest amenities and support facilities.
Capital projects completed since 2001 include:
- 2002: Parking lot, Wild Prairie exhibit, expansion of the Roger J. Sherman Center for Animal Care
- 2003: Barnhardt Family Welcome Center, Penguin Point and Lehner Family Zoo Gardens
- 2005: Legends of the Wild and Komodo Kingdom Environmental Education Center
- 2008: Jellies – Rhythm in the Blue
- 2010: Conservation Carousel
- 2011: Farmland & the A&K Wilber Express solar train ride
- 2012: Journey to the Reef
- 2013: Mike & Mary Stark Grizzly Ridge
- 2017: Curious Creatures
- 2019: Pride of Africa
Meet Our President & CEO
Doug Piekarz became president & CEO in 2015. Prior to taking the lead role at the zoo, Doug was the vice president of planning and conservation programs. Doug has over 26 years in the zoo profession, specializing in the areas of strategic and master planning, animal and facility operations, exhibit development, and green practices. Doug joined that Akron Zoo in 1998 as the general curator and has held several positions at the Akron Zoo. Before coming to the Akron Zoo, Doug was a senior wild animal keeper and area supervisor at the Bronx Zoo in New York.
Doug is very passionate about conservation and building value for wildlife and wild places through connecting people to nature. Doug has been actively involved in a number of field conservation programs and sustainability programs. Some of the field conservation programs he has led or participated in include:
- Greater Akron Christmas Bird Count, Area Count Coordinator
- Venezuelan Waterfowl Foundation, Founding Advisor
- IUCN Brazilian Merganser Conservation Action Team, Team Member
- Colombian Torrent Cuck Project in Venezuela, Primary Investigator
Doug is active at a national level for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). He has participated in the following roles as an active member of AZA:
- AZA Accreditation Inspector
- Green Scientific Advisory Group
- Climate Initiative Task Force
- Honors and Awards Committee
- Diversity Committee
- Creating Successful Exhibits, Course Administrator
- Executive Leadership Development Program
Besides his involvement at the national level, Doug is involved at the local level with several organizations or initiatives. A few of these include:
- Leadership Akron, Class 24, Alumni
- Summit of Sustainability Awards Committee
- Green Energy Ohio
- Entrepreneurs for Sustainability
Board of Directors
The Akron Zoo Board of Directors took responsibility for the governance of the zoo in 1980, when the zoo moved from being a city operated facility to a private, non-profit organization. The Board of Directors is a group of dedicated community volunteers who govern the zoo, providing counsel and leadership. The zoo can have a total of 40 board members and looks to recruit a diverse group of professionals and community leaders whose talents and skills will help the Akron Zoo continue to grow and evolve as a must visit regional attraction.
Chair: Jim Snider
Immediate Past Chair: Robert Littman
Vice Chair: Frank Bevilacqua
Treasurer: Sophie Veillette
Secretary: Robert DeJournett