Photo Tour: Arctic Shores is coming to life at the Edmonton Valley Zoo

The Edmonton Valley Zoo is in the midst of a major transformation. One of the most talked about new features is known as Arctic Shores, set to open sometime in 2012. This week (before it snowed) I had the opportunity to tour the construction site, and was impressed by the progress!

Arctic Shores will improve the quality of life for the zoo’s seals and sea lion with a new indoor/outdoor pool. You really have to see the before and after to get a sense of how dramatic that change will be, however. Here’s what the facility currently looks like:

Valley Zoo
There are three sea lion/seal pools on the left.

Valley Zoo
The zoo’s South American Sea Lion.

Valley Zoo
The zoo’s two Harbour seals.

Valley Zoo
A new home is on the way!

The animals are well cared for, they just don’t have the most attractive or exciting space to live in. It looks and feels somewhat utilitarian, and doesn’t really allow visitors to get very close to the animals. But that’s all about to change!

Here’s a rendering that illustrates what the new facility will look like:

Polar Extremes Rendering

This is a model that was on display last May, courtesy of Sharon.

Seal habitat

And here’s another view, displayed on the fence around the construction area at the zoo.

Valley Zoo Arctic Shores Construction

And here’s what the construction status looked like as of this week. This is the road leading up to the Arctic Shores facility, inside the fenced off construction site. The zoo has around 75 acres of land, only 40% of which has been developed. The land that Arctic Shores is now on used to be home to camels and West Caucasian turs. They have been moved to a new home, which highlights one of the challenges of major construction at the zoo. It sounds like the construction team had some interesting encounters with the turs early on!

Valley Zoo Arctic Shores Construction 

The new facility is being built with sustainability in mind. It will have a green roof to minimize storm water runoff, and will also feature dark-sky-compliant exterior lighting.

Valley Zoo Arctic Shores Construction 

A big focus is water conservation. The building shown below is where filtration will happen, with the goal of achieving net zero water usage. There’s a mechanical filtration system that uses perlite (commonly seen in potting soil). That’s significant because it is safer for staff, and can simply be composted when it needs to be replaced. There’s also a biological filtration system, in the form of a saltwater marsh just behind the building.

Valley Zoo Arctic Shores Construction 

That filtration all happens via the 29 pipes buried underground. The pipes range in diameter from 4 inches to 16 inches, and altogether will ensure that all 870,000 litres of water goes through the cycle every 90 minutes. If all goes according to plan, the filtration system will mean that the pools are filled just once. In the current habitat, the water is refilled every week.

Valley Zoo Arctic Shores Construction 

This is the view from atop the back edge of the new outdoor pool. It’s pretty incredible to see the pathways and everything brought to life! The concrete you see here will be sealed and covered with a 2 inch layer of finishing concrete that looks like rock. Hopefully there are no leaks – the only way to tell is to fill it all up with water and then watch closely!

Valley Zoo Arctic Shores Construction 

The outdoor pool is connected to the indoor pool via the pathway you can see on the right below.

Valley Zoo Arctic Shores Construction 

Below you can see the viewing platform, where visitors will have a chance to get a closer look at the animals. There’s a big, curved piece of acrylic that will be added to the platform. And if you look closely, you’ll note the middle of the platform has a bunch of plywood on it. That will be turned into a viewing window as well!

Valley Zoo Arctic Shores Construction 

In the background here you can see one of the large piles of earth. In all, the construction team estimates they removed roughly 1900 end dumps (the large, 30-40 foot long dump truck trailers). The good news is that all of that earth stayed at the zoo, and will be used for refilling around the construction and other landscaping projects.

Valley Zoo Arctic Shores Construction 

In addition to the new sea lion/seal home, Arctic Shores will feature a pingo and a whale bone play structure. An arctic fox and ground squirrels will also call Arctic Shores home.

Valley Zoo Arctic Shores Construction 

The shot below is the space that will become the kitchen, where staff prepare food for the sea lion and seals. Everything will be stainless steel, with lots of work space and a viewing window into the indoor pool.

Valley Zoo Arctic Shores Construction 

In the background below, you can see the curved structure covered in black, green, and yellow tarps. That’s the acrylic piece that will encircle the viewing platform. It turns out that there are just two companies in the world that could make that component of the project, one in the United States and one in Japan. Due in part to scheduling requirements, the contract went to the company in Japan. The acrylic arrived in Edmonton late Monday night, lucky to have survived the earthquake and tsunami. You can read more about it here.

Valley Zoo Arctic Shores Construction

The final photo here is where the new zoo entrance will be. It will also serve as the entrance to The Wander, a new central trail system that will be built after Arctic Shores. Construction won’t begin on that for a while, but the zoo did get a head start this week. A total of 85 trees and shrubs will have been removed by today, in order to comply with the Migratory Birds Convention Act. All of them will be replaced.

Valley Zoo Arctic Shores Construction

As you can see, the construction of Arctic Shores has come a long way since last June. I’m really excited about the changes taking place the Valley Zoo, and will be writing more about the zoo’s ongoing transformation over the next few weeks. Thanks to Denise and Mary Lou for the tour!

You can see more photos here.

9 thoughts on “Photo Tour: Arctic Shores is coming to life at the Edmonton Valley Zoo

  1. Thanks Mack! I’ve been wondering what’s been happening since I saw the mock-up last year. Kudos to the Valley Zoo for their efforts. Can’t wait to see it! I had the great fortune to meet the seals, (one wanted to play ball with me, crazy seal beaned me on the head with it’s ball) and I’m pretty the seals are going to be excited once it’s complete.

  2. Thanks Mack! I’ve been wondering what’s been happening since I saw the mock-up last year. Kudos to the Valley Zoo for their efforts. Can’t wait to see it! I had the great fortune to meet the seals, (one wanted to play ball with me, crazy seal beaned me on the head with it’s ball) and I’m pretty the seals are going to be excited once it’s complete.

  3. The Edmonton Zoo is on our to-do list! Haven’t been there since we moved – way to cold…even though the rates are better in the winter! The new place for the seals looks great. So glad that they’re changing it.

  4. Thanks for the tour. The last time I was at the zoo I found it to be depressing — even though the staff seemed to really care for the animals, the enclosures were terrible.

    It is good to see that city putting some money into the zoo. The new habitat for the seals looks like it will be amazing and I imagine it will be like a whole new world for them! I hope the reinvestment continues!

  5. Thanks for the tour. The last time I was at the zoo I found it to be depressing — even though the staff seemed to really care for the animals, the enclosures were terrible.

    It is good to see that city putting some money into the zoo. The new habitat for the seals looks like it will be amazing and I imagine it will be like a whole new world for them! I hope the reinvestment continues!

  6. I find the photo “The zoo’s South American Sea Lion” to be not a friendly eyesight for an animal lover. Why would a sea lion be left there? But, because they are under construction I think I understand. Do zoo habitat construction companies honor insurance payments? Or, is it possible to let your insurance company cover the cost?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s