City of Evansville waives city fee for Zoo’s Community Membership Program

The Community Membership Program (CMP) began in May of this year, a partnership between Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden and the Evansville Zoological Society.

The City of Evansville Board of Park Commissioners at its September 15, 2021 meeting approved the request to waive the city fee of $9.50 for each Community Family Membership sold through Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden. The request was made by Erik Beck, Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden’s Executive Director. At the Parks Board meeting, Beck stated that he spoke to Mayor Lloyd Winnecke about the possibility to waive the city fee, which is $9.50 for each membership sold, and that Mayor Winnecke was in support of the waiver. 

The Community Membership Program (CMP) began in May of this year, a partnership between Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden and the Evansville Zoological Society.  The Zoo’s CMP offers a membership discount for families participating in the federally-funded Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). The initial launch of the initiative was funded by the Covid-19 Crisis Response Fund of the Greater Evansville and the Indiana United Ways with funding provided by Lily Endowment, Inc., and further subsidized through private donations made at the Zoo’s Vintage Vines event in August.

“The City of Evansville is proud to partner with the Zoo. By working together we’re able to encourage accessibility to one of the community's most beloved assets to even more community members,” says Mayor Winnecke.

Beck states, “based on current donated funds, the Zoo is able to increase the number of households and gain momentum toward sustainability of the CMP. This initiative is not going away, so having the city’s commitment to waive this fee allows flexibility as we watch the CMP grow.”

Since the start of the program the Zoo has seen 600 households enroll onto the CMP, which accounts for 1,130 adults and 1,697 children. The popularity of the family memberships has resulted in 1,016 visits to the Zoo this summer. In August the Zoo expanded the geographic reach to include all of Southwest Indiana, Southern Illinois, and Western Kentucky

The Community Membership Program offers a deeply discounted family membership ($65 current rate) for $5 annually to households who are enrolled in the federal SNAP programThe Zoo will provide eligible families a family membership for $5 annually to two named adults, plus children under 18 (members must be at same household). The family membership can be purchased in person at the Zoo’s Membership Gate daily from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM.

Eligibility requires a valid SNAP card and photo ID at the time of purchase. The purchaser must be one of the named adults on the membership. The program is be available to residents of Southwest Indiana, Western Kentucky, and Southern Illinois. Mesker Park Zoo membership benefits include:

  • Free general admission for one full year
  • Free admission to special events during regular zoo hours
  • Free tram rides for one full year
  • Discounted admission to Boo at the Zoo and Breakfast with Santa events
  • Zoo Member Only “Member Appreciation Event”
  • Free subscription to e-newsletter and Zoo Lovers Online magazine
  • Discounts for Birthday Parties
  • Priority registration and discounts for Zoo Camp
  • Discounts or Free Admission to over 172 zoos and aquariums

“The Evansville Zoological Society (EZS), the nonprofit organization who raises supportive funds for Mesker Park Zoo, is making sure the Community Membership Program isn’t going away anytime soon,” says Beck. The Zoo is working to sustain this offering through the support of present and future donors.

For more information or to support the Community Membership Program visit

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