Spanning the canyon at the heart of the 100-acre San Diego Zoo, a brand-new 450-foot bridge—known as the Canopy Bridge—opened to the public today (July 28, 2017) with a colossal celebration and an inspiring ribbon-cutting ceremony. The opening featured the zany Dr. Zoolittle as emcee and San Diego Zoo Global Board of Trustees Chairman Robert B. Horsman as keynote speaker, along with entertainment from the Chameleons brass band and the Zoo’s larger-than-life pageantry puppets. An electrifying musical procession led guests across the massive new structure, where they were treated to a shower of bubbles.
For decades, the Zoo has sought to improve visitor accessibility at its grounds, which encompass canyons, hills, mesas and multilevel walkways. The newly opened Canopy Bridge connects Benchley Plaza, located in Lost Forest on the east side of the Zoo, to the Fossil Portal inside Elephant Odyssey on the west side—meaning guests can now move all the way from the front entrance to the other end of the Zoo in a few minutes. Zoo staff members predict the bridge will revolutionize foot traffic flow, making it easier—and faster—for everyone from children to senior citizens to people with mobility challenges to reach the Zoo’s many habitats.
“This new bridge is not just a structure made of stone and metal,” said Robert B. Horsman, chairman of the San Diego Zoo Global Board of Trustees. “This bridge is a new pathway that will provide a pedestrian friendly environment for guests of all ages with varying physical abilities.”
Bridge crews still have some work to do: three large passenger elevators and looping staircases that will help take guests from Panda Canyon to the bridge proper are still under construction. However, the elevators and the staircases will open later this year, along with a new food kiosk in the canyon.
In addition to providing easier access to habitats, the bridge will also offer guests a new eatery on the Elephant Odyssey side, along with panoramic views of the Zoo and Balboa Park from the bridge itself—and “aerial views” of the sprawling Conrad Prebys Africa Rocks exhibit, the newest and most ambitious habitat construction project in the Zoo’s history.
From the bridge, guests can observe construction crews completing the $68 million project that is transforming 8 acres of the Zoo into six new habitats for African plant and animal species. They include the already-opened Cape Fynbos (home to African penguins and leopard sharks) and the soon-to-open West African Forest, Acacia Woodland, Ethiopian Highlands, Kopje and Madagascar Forest—along with the African Garden, featuring rare and amazing plants. Africa Rocks will be home to many rarely seen birds, reptiles and mammals native to Africa, including hamadryas baboons, geladas, West African dwarf crocodiles, vervet monkeys and lemurs.