Riverbanks is Paving the Way for a Bridge to the Wild

For Immediate Release: May 19, 2022

Zoo Seeks Support from Both Lexington and Richland Counties

[Columbia, SC] — Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is seeking funding from both Lexington and Richland Counties to build a Bridge to the Wild. The $80 million development project will elevate the Zoo and Garden’s stature as South Carolina’s leading conservation resource and the Southeast’s premier destination for family fun.

Riverbanks’ innovative vision — detailed video here — will connect communities and immerse guests in nature. Highlights of the project include a multifaceted Primate Forest on the banks of lower Saluda River with animals like orangutans, langurs, and gibbons. A viewing deck overlooking the river will also offer guests spectacular views of the Primate Forest and surrounding habitats.

Another exciting new addition will be a South Carolina nature preserve where guests can learn about and experience some of our region’s most endangered and charismatic species including American black bears, bald eagles, and red wolves.

“Bridge to the Wild will advance our mission to connect guests with the natural world and inspire actions to conserve nature,” said Tommy Stringfellow, president and CEO of Riverbanks Zoo and Garden. “The project also will afford Riverbanks additional opportunities to serve our state as the conservation leader and a driver of tourism generating millions of dollars into the communities we serve.”

Riverbanks serves as an economic engine currently pumping $148 million dollars into Lexington and Richland Counties. If approved, the development project is expected to generate an additional $30 million in economic impact. As the state’s leading tourist attraction welcoming more than 1 million visitors annually, the Zoo and Garden also expects attendance to increase to 1.5 million.

A first reading on the proposed funding request will take place at Lexington County Council’s meeting on Tuesday, May 24; a first reading in Richland County is scheduled for Tuesday, June 7. If approved, the funding will be split between the two counties with about $45 million from Richland County and $35 million from Lexington County, the difference based on population, and distributed over a 20-year period. Stringfellow adds that based on current market rates the projected cost to taxpayers on a $100,000 home will amount to $7.50 or less annually.

One significant portion of Riverbanks’ visionary plan is already underway; construction of the Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center is expected to be complete this fall. As part of the renovation made possible by the Boyd Foundation, a giant moon jellyfish tank was delivered to Riverbanks this week. The glowing gallery will be home to hundreds of moon jellies—named for their translucent, moon-like bell. The Conservation Center also will boast dynamic new animal habitats and highlight Riverbanks’ role in wildlife conservation and conservation partnerships. Visit Riverbanks online for additional hard hat updates.