Beacon Journal staff report
Grizzly bears haven't roamed the region for more than 10,000 years, but they soon will return to the area.
On Thursday, the Akron Zoo announced it will begin one of the largest expansion projects in its history, the Mike & Mary Stark Grizzly Ridge, which is scheduled to open by 2013.
Grizzly Ridge will cover about 3.5 acres and will be home to more than six animal species never before seen at the Akron Zoo, including black bears, red wolves and coyotes.
Grizzlies can weigh from 250 to almost 1,000 pounds. In the wild, they mainly roam the Northwest, Alaska and Canada.
The exhibit is being named in honor of Mike Stark, a zoo board member since 1994 and current chairman of the board, and his wife, Mary. Both are ardent supporters of the zoo, said David Barnhardt, director of marketing and guest services.
River otters and bald eagles will remain at the zoo, and new exhibits will be built for them as part of the new area.
There will also be several interactive learning opportunities in the new exhibit area.
Construction is to begin later this year and will replace an older section of the zoo, Barnhardt said.
''We are really excited to highlight some of the animals that may have roamed this very land hundreds of years ago and tell their stories,'' said Patricia Simmons, president and chief executive of the zoo.
Several older exhibits will be removed to make way for the new construction, including an exhibit built in 1918 that housed Alaskan brown bears and Russian browns bears, even before the zoo was built in 1953. The exhibit has been empty for about 10 years.
Monkey Island, built in 1960, will also be removed, along with two waterfowl ponds, two tortoise exhibits and the river otter exhibit.