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Exotic oasis expands; Reptile Gardens begins construction on new additions to the park

Although their countless curiosities draw people in year after year, Reptile Gardens is stepping up its game, expanding the scope of the park.
Published: May. 26, 2022 at 9:30 AM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Reptile Gardens was a hot spot for visitors last summer, with guest numbers up around 30 percent.

But the staff is hoping to return to a more normal about of people as they begin an expansion of the park.

For just under a century, Reptile Gardens has given all kinds of snakes, alligators, and turtles a home in the midwest.

Although their countless curiosities draw people in year after year, Reptile Gardens is stepping up its game, expanding the scope of the park.

“We’ve renovated the area so that we can have all three; the big giants that we have, the teenagers that we have, then these little guys,” said the public relations director for Reptile Gardens, John Brockelsby and he held a small turtle. “And they’ll all be on display for all of our guests to see all summer long.”

New enclosures, new pools, and even new shade for one of the park’s biggest attractions, “These guys are just, they’re really the iconic animal of reptile gardens, the giant tortoises,” continued Brockelsby.

But what about their feathery relatives?

“We’re right now in the construction phase, it’ll be done hopefully by Memorial Day weekend, over in our Tortuga Falls, is a brand new exhibit with our Kookaburras,” explained Brockelsby. “Then down at Avian Avenue, we put in a brand new exhibit this year. Our King Vulture, which is an absolutely gorgeous bird, is going to be out and on display all year long.”

That’s not all that’s in the works, five years from now, things will look a whole lot different.

“We plan to do an expansion out beyond the Prairie Dog Town,” said Brockelsby. “Where we’d put in some new ponds and that, we’d have some elevated walkways going over the alligators and crocodiles and that. We’d have a feeding area. Very ambitious plans, this is kind of in the five-year deal.”

Brockelsby added that a new tortoise enclosure and butterfly house are in the five-year plan as well, replacing the current home of Cheyenne the eagle.

She will move closer to Avian Avenue.

“If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward,” finished Brockelsby. “And quite frankly, our guests, they like to come back every year but we always need to offer some new things each and every year, giving folks a reason to come back and visit us.”

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