Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden is committed to the wise use of energy and natural resources. Resource conservation issues are integrated into our decision making process.
Energy and Water Usage
Staff continually monitors energy and water usage. Our approach is to maintain equipment regularly to keep highest efficiency; to advise and monitor staff on energy usage; and to make capital investments that lower usage on existing and new systems. Amazonia: Forest of Riches, which opened in 2008, has several features that conserve energy. The placement of the building into a south-facing hill allows the building to collect passive solar heat when needed. Return ducts placed high inside the building recirculate heated air. In the summer high vents exhaust heated air which reduces cooling needs. Supply ducts are carefully located to ensure that staff, guests and our living collections are maintained within their comfort levels. A program to replace traditional lighting with energy efficient methods has been started. Several areas have been switched to compact fluorescents and LED lighting was used in the Nocturnal exhibit renovation in 2009. In 2011, an investment of over $22,000 was made to replace a small boiler to the Kley building heating system. This allows the large boiler to be shut down for 8-10 additional weeks a year. Cleanout ports and temperature regulators have been added to increase efficiency.
We offer many opportunities for recycling consumer goods. Beverage container recycling is available to our guests and staff. Office paper and cardboard, glass and plastic are recycled.
Botanical Services Center – Compost Facility and Nursery
In accordance with our Urban Forestry and Botanical Master Plan, Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden has been developing a support facility for the botanical collection on a former Parks District property adjacent to MPZBG. The site had been used as a Depression era work camp before ultimately turning into a tree waste dumping ground for various city departments in the 1980’s.
In 1996, MPZBG was awarded an Indiana Department of Environmental Management Recycling Grant to develop the Botanical Services Center. A large cuttermill was purchased and the process of cleaning up the site began in 1997. Over the next few years, MPZBG employees processed over three thousand cubic yards of accumulated organic waste. This has eliminated a potential pollution source for the local Pigeon Creek watershed and kept the material from going to the landfill. Through another grant from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and administered through the Pigeon Highland Watershed Steering Committee, MPZBG has converted part of the land into a composting operation for the organic waste generated from Evansville Parks Department, Department of Urban Forestry, and the Levee Authority in addition to our own. A 4500 sq ft concrete pad was installed (August 2001) to serve as the “active” area for the compost operation. This facility reduces the waste stream to local landfills by an estimated 1000 cubic yards per year. It also provides a quality soil amendment that is used at MPZBG. This facility is an IDEM registered Solid Waste Composting Facility and is designed in compliance with IDEM standards. In accordance with our registration, MPZBG submits an annual report to IDEM. In the years 2006-2010 MPZBG composted a total of 1255 tons of landscape waste and manure.
Two Greenhouses were added in 2004-2005. These facilities supply MPZBG with the appropriate plants for projects and landscape maintenance. They have also been used in the propagation of native plant material for ecosystem restoration partnerships with Howell Wetlands and Prairie Creek Barrens Nature Preserve.
The development of the Botanical Services Center at Mesker Park Zoo and Botanic Garden has been the result of the cooperation and support of many entities: The US Forest Service, The Indiana Department of Natural Resources: Division of Urban Forestry, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, Vanderburgh County Solid Waste Management District, the Vanderburgh County Soil and Water Conservation District, the Pigeon Highland Watershed Steering Committee, the Four Rivers Resource Conservation and Development Area, Inc. and the City of Evansville Department of Parks and Recreation, Department of Urban Forestry, and Levee Authority, and the Westside Improvement Association.
In February of 2004, MPZBG received the Vanderburgh County SWCD Urban Conservationist Award for its outstanding conservation efforts in soil and water conservation. The composting operation was noted in particular as an innovative project that addresses multiple issues of land use, water quality, waste reduction and recycling.
Soil and Site Conservation
MPZBG is situated on a beautiful hilly site with many bodies of water. The physical nature of the site couple with poor management practices in the past have led to degradation of soils, woodlands and water quality. Over the past decade best management practices for soil and water conservation have been implemented. Many of these have been made possible by cooperation with the Vanderburgh County Soil & Water Conservation District. Projects include: A demonstration rain garden by the entry complex, a low mow prairie grass demonstration garden, a native plant demonstration garden, the installation of a prairie grass filterstrip in our Asian Wild Horse exhibit, the creation of a small wetland to filter run-off from the Asian Plains area, over 650 linear feet of lakeshore erosion control plantings on Lake Victoria. In 2010, Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden was awarded Conservation Educator Award by the Vanderburgh County Soil and Water District. Also in 2011, the Demonstration Rain Garden won the Leadership Evansville Environmental Project Award.