State College

Petting zoo could be in the works for State College

One of Derek Bierly’s goats checks out the visitors as they pass by in the goat barn during the Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair on August 22. Goats could come to downtown State College in a proposed petting zoo project.
One of Derek Bierly’s goats checks out the visitors as they pass by in the goat barn during the Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair on August 22. Goats could come to downtown State College in a proposed petting zoo project. Centre Daily Times, file

Downtown State College will be home to The Metropolitan and Fraser Centre, and it could also be the site for a petting zoo.

Clio Andris, who teaches geography at Penn State, came up with the idea when she started at the university a year and a half ago.

“I was interested in how animals help people, and I became the faculty adviser to a dorm on campus,” Andris said. “I found out some students have comfort animals that they have prescriptions for. I thought something more permanent could be a great benefit to the community.”

Andris’ petting zoo idea is one of three State College initiatives to be finalists in the $5 million Knight Cities Challenge, which seeks ideas to spur civic innovation. There are 158 finalists out of a pool of about 4,500 applicants.

“We’re just very lucky, excited and humbled to be considered,” Andris said. “We’re really grateful they would think about taking a chance on us.”

The Make Space member John Stitzinger made the finals with an idea for a community collaborative ice luminary, an event that would encourage people to make ice luminaries, share the mold with neighbors and set a record by lighting the town. The Make Space is on Fraser Street.

I think it would be feasible, because this community is so great and welcoming to new initiatives.

Clio Andris

Penn State Assistant Vice President for Research and Industrial Partnerships James Delattre’s submission for the LaunchBox, a no-cost business accelerator program, is also a finalist. The LaunchBox will launch in the old Verizon Building on Allen Street in the spring.

Unlike her State College cohorts, Andris doesn’t have a set space for a petting zoo.

Andris would like it to be near The Arboretum or in downtown State College. She would prefer it to be small, hopefully with a facility and outdoor space. She recently began to search for sites, though she said it could take time to find a low-cost opportunity.

Dogs, cats, rabbits, ducklings and possibly larger farm animals like alpacas, pot belly pigs and a goat could attract, Andris hopes, children and college-aged students needing a break from studies.

She would also like pet owners to be a part of the initiative by bringing their own animals and volunteering at the petting zoo.

“I think it would be feasible, because this community is so great and welcoming to new initiatives,”Andris said. “We’d really like to push it through, because it could help people. We’ve gotten started, and hopefully we’ll get it funded.”

Shawn Annarelli: 814-235-3928, @Shawn_Annarelli

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