PHOTOS: Hattiesburg Zoo train rides on hold due to damage from storm flooding

Zoo train track damaged during severe weather last week
Published: Dec. 16, 2022 at 1:12 PM CST
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Flooding that took place in Hattiesburg during Wednesday’s storms has damaged a portion of the Hattiesburg Zoo’s train tracks, causing the train not to be used at this time.

According to the Hattiesburg Convention Commission, the train track washout was discovered Thursday morning during the zoo staff’s morning safety assessment following the storms. Gordon’s Creek, which is alongside the zoo, crested over its banks, sabotaging about 75 feet of tracks.

Commission officials are working with several local government entities to develop a plan for repairs. Until repairs are made, the commission says it is not safe for the zoo to operate the train, and it is not known at this time how long repairs will take.

“We were sad to discover the washout Thursday morning,” said Commission Executive Director Rick Taylor, which manages the Hattiesburg Zoo. “These storms were unprecedented, and Mother Nature proved to be a wrecking force for the zoo’s train track.”

“Fortunately, both trains were secured during the storms and did not sustain any damage.”

Wednesday morning before the storms, zoo staff moved the majority of lanterns displayed during “Lights of the Wild” undercover, saving them from any damage.

“We are pleased to report that during Thursday morning’s inspection of the zoo, our animal care team noted that all animals and their habitats were in good shape,” Zoo curator Kristen Moore said.

“We did have a good bit of debris down throughout the zoo so our staff spent the day Thursday cleaning up,” said Demetric Kelly, director of guest services and retail. “We did not think opening Thursday was in the best interest of our guests, and our focus needed to be on resetting lanterns and clearing areas so that guests could enjoy our zoo in the days to come.”

The Hattiesburg Zoo will move forward with regular operations beginning Friday, and “Lights of the Wild” will operate as scheduled for Dec. 16-23. Lanterns alongside the train route have been moved and repositioned to allow them to be seen by guests from all foot-traffic areas of the zoo.

Kelly says every ticketed guest of the zoo will receive a train ride voucher that can be used the next time they visit the zoo.

“We understand that some of our guests at ‘Lights of the Wild’ will be disappointed that they aren’t able to have their train ride, so we will present them with a train ride voucher, which can be used at their next visit to the Hattiesburg Zoo,” Kelly said.

The train ride vouchers can be used until Nov. 30, 2023.

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