News & Views

Enriching Life For People and Wildlife

The new California Trail, an $80 million expansion project that will double the size of Oakland Zoo, heralds an exciting new commitment by the Oakland Zoo to enrich the lives of people and wildlife in the Bay Area by connecting people with nature through its extensive public engagement, education and wildlife conservation efforts. The California Trail also represents the most purpose-driven partnership opportunity available for corporations committed to a thriving Bay Area.

I was honoured to moderate an enlightening panel discussion between Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Bay Area Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman, San Francisco Travel President & CEO Joe D’Alessandro and Oakland Zoo President & CEO Dr. Joel Parrott on why this new development matters to the people who live, play, work and visit the region.

The results from a recent member survey undertaken by Oakland Zoo were shared publicly for the first time at an event hosted by the Bay Area Council at the Zoo's new California Trail. Members of the Bay Area Council met at an event held at the new California Trail Landing Café to learn about the impact of this new addition to the Bay Area landscape from a social, environmental and economic perspective and the exciting collaboration opportunity that it presents to corporations committed to supporting a thriving Bay Area.

The survey revealed that 93% of respondents believe that Bay Area corporations should stand for more than just making a profit and have a responsibility to support local organizations addressing social, environmental or economic issues. 77% indicated that they would be more likely to buy a sponsor’s products or services over that sponsor’s competitors.

The education and conservation focus of Oakland Zoo were a major topic of discussion amongst the panelists. Oakland Zoo already positively impacts the lives of more than 60,000 young people across the Bay Area each year through a range of STEM-related education programs. California Trail will provide an opportunity to extend the reach of these programs with a focus on increasing access to more Title 1 schools in the region.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf stressed the importance of these education programs to Oakland as well as the opportunity for families in the Bay Area to have a safe and natural place that they can visit together to connect with each other and with nature: “I cannot overstate the degree to which the Oakland Zoo enhances the quality of life for people in Oakland and the greater Bay Area. I am tremendously excited about the many new possibilities that California Trail opens up for the diverse communities in our region, particularly the young people who will benefit from this opportunity to learn and explore their environment in new and unique ways for years to come.” said Schaaf.

“The new gondola and the entire California Trail Project is one of the most exciting additions to come to Oakland and the Bay Area in many years. As a Trustee of Oakland Zoo, I couldn’t be prouder of the incredible efforts of Dr. Joel Parrott, who with the Oakland Zoo team, the Board of Trustees, and many generous people and foundations, have made this incredible project possible” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “It’s now time for Bay Area corporations committed to a thriving Bay Area to step up and embrace the opportunity to partner with the Oakland Zoo team in their important work to enrich life for people and wildlife in the region. People expect this level of support which will not only be good for the Bay Area but also for the corporations themselves as they go about doing good and doing well.”

The new California Trail is also expected to add significantly to the variety of world class attractions that the Bay Area has to offer and in the process positively contribute towards the important economic driver that international and domestic tourism is for the region.

Joe D’Alessandro, CEO and President of San Francisco Travel, shared his excitement around the opening of California Trail: “This is a world class attraction that will sit very comfortably alongside the other major attractions in the Bay Area including the California Academy of Sciences, the Exploratorium and SFMOMA and in the process further integrate Oakland as an important destination on the Bay Area map.”

Oakland Zoo will continue to increase its focus on conservation efforts working in partnership with multiple community organisations across the world and in Northern California. “Over and above our ongoing education and conservation efforts, we’ve committed to allocate 25% of every sponsorship dollar that we raise through our corporate partnership program to programs educating people on the value of nature and supporting the conservation of 10 iconic California species in the wild” said Dr. Joel Parrott, CEO and President of the Oakland Zoo.

Visit the new Oakland Zoo website for more.

Interesting Facts about Oakland Zoo and the new California Trail:

1.    California Trail opens in two phases: the gondola and the Landing Café open in June 2017, and the animal exhibits will open in summer 2018 - the first urban gondola ride in Northern California, the best views in the Bay Area and eight iconic CA species - grizzly bear, black bear, California condor, jaguar, mountain lion, bison, bald eagle, and grey wolf.

2.    The $80 million expansion project will double the size of the Zoo and make it one of the three largest zoos in California.

3.    Over 800 000 visitors annually, most of these millennial mums and dads with their kids.

4.    Membership: +23 000 households / +70 000 people.

5.    Over 60,000 people benefit from Oakland Zoo education programs each year, and the plan is to increase this with a focus on kids from underserved communities.

6.    Guest Experience: connecting people with wildlife is as much about inspiring them to become champions for a healthy thriving ecosystem as it is about providing opportunities for families to connect with each other in a safe and natural environment.

7.    Conservation: 10 California species have been adopted and will be the focus of conservation efforts going forward, with a particular focus on partnering with conservation organisations working in the field.

8.    Amplification: it’s not just about what happens on site – the Zoo invests $50 million in earned and leveraged media throughout the Bay Area to amplify its message.

9.    Sustainability: Oakland Zoo is recognized by the AZA as a model sustainable zoo.

Corporations interested in exploring partnership opportunities associated with the California Trail and Oakland Zoo can contact