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About Riverbanks

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is home to more than 2,000 magnificent and fascinating animals and one of the nation’s most beautiful and inspiring botanical gardens. The Zoo first opened its gates to the local community on April 25, 1974, and has continued for more than four decades to provide individuals, families and groups with a common place to connect with and learn about the world’s wildlife and wild places. Today Riverbanks is one of the largest mid-sized zoos in the United States and South Carolina’s leading destination attraction, boasting a national reputation as one of America’s best zoos and drawing one million visitors annually.

In June 1995 Riverbanks Botanical Garden opened to the public. The extraordinary garden blooms year-round with more than 4,300 species of native and exotic plants and provides a living classroom for gardeners and non-gardeners alike. The formal Walled Garden offers a picture-perfect location for weddings and special events. One of Riverbanks’ newest attractions, Waterfall Junction, opened April 7, 2016. The 3-acre interactive children’s garden within the Botanical Garden inspires exploration, imagination and nature play with tree houses, a dinosaur bone dig, splash zones and plenty of room to roam.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1973, Riverbanks is also the site of structural remains dating back to the early 1800s with South Carolina’s textile industry and the Civil War. Historic ruins can be seen from various locations along the footbridge linking the Zoo and Garden as well as along the naturally wooded River Trail.

Mission Statement

It is the mission of Riverbanks Zoo and Garden to create meaningful connections and inspire actions that will have a lasting impact on conservation. We are dedicated to providing the highest standards of care for our animals and plants, delivering a diverse educational and high-quality recreational experience for all Riverbanks visitors, and utilizing all available resources for the conservation of the earth's flora and fauna.

Executive Biographies

Thomas K. “Tommy” Stringfellow President & CEO

With nearly 30 years of experience in the zoo and attractions industries, Thomas K. Stringfellow is only the third executive to oversee the Zoo in its 43-year-history. He began his career at Riverbanks in 2002 as director of marketing and was promoted to chief operating officer in 2011. Stringfellow was named president and CEO in August of 2017.

Prior to his tenure at Riverbanks, Stringfellow directed sales and marketing for various theme parks across the United States including Six Flags Over Georgia, Six Flags Whitewater Water Park and American Adventures Family Entertainment Center and Six Flags Great Escape and Water Park.

For nearly two decades Stringfellow has been dedicated to ensuring Riverbanks’ continued growth, financial success and leadership in the field of conservation. During his inaugural year as president, Riverbanks was named Best South Carolina Attraction by readers of USA Today. The Zoo also welcomed nearly 1.3 million guests and celebrated numerous births including a giraffe calf, two western lowland gorillas, and five African lion cubs.

An active member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, he has served terms on the Marketing Advisory Committee for AZA and both the Columbia Metropolitan of Conventions and Visitors Bureau and Atlanta Convention and Tourism Board. He is an active member of the community and served on the Board of Directors for Palmetto Health’s Camp Kemo.

Stringfellow is a native South Carolinian and is married with two sons and one daughter.

Robert G. “Bob” Davidson Chair, Riverbanks Park Commission

Mr. Davidson has served on the Riverbanks Park Commission since December 2016. As Commission Chair, Davidson is responsible for guiding his fellow Commissioners in business decisions related to Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, from park improvements and maintenance to staffing and operations.

Davidson is a retired trust banker and certified financial planner. He served the state of South Carolina for more than twenty years, working with both South Carolina National Bank and Wachovia in their wealth management divisions.

An active member in the community, Davidson previously has served as president and member of the board of directors of Riverbanks Society and as a board member of the Historic Columbia Foundation, the South Carolina State Museum Foundation, Hammond School, South Carolina Archives and History Foundation, and the University of South Carolina College of Liberal Arts National Advisory Council.

Davidson holds a bachelor’s degree from Davidson College and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He also studied at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. He and his wife Jane are native North Carolinians with two children and five grandchildren.

Learn more about Riverbanks Park Commission.

Susan S. Keenan President, Riverbanks Society Board of Directors

Sue Keenan has served as the Director of Institutional Advancement at Hammond School in Columbia since 2015. Sue is responsible for all facets of the school's fund-raising planning and development efforts. A native of Birmingham, Alabama, she is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) with over 18 years of experience in the non-profit sector as both consultant and executive director.

Prior to relocating to Columbia, Sue served as Executive Director of the Roper St. Francis Foundation in Charleston from 2004 to 2014. Sue and her team successfully led efforts to revitalize the Roper St. Francis Foundation, taking the Foundation from a grant making organization to a supporting arm of the healthcare system. Sue is an active member in the community. She and her husband, Neel, have five sons.

Learn more about Riverbanks Society.