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Flood damage doesn't deter North Georgia Zoo visitors
North Georgia Zoo maintenance worker Steven Wassing shows how high the water came into a portion of the property. Staff and volunteers have worked to repair damage. - photo by J.K. Devine

Signs of flood damage are hardly noticeable to the average visitor at the North Georgia Zoo in Cleveland. But staff members and volunteers can quickly and easily point to waterline marks and damage from a flash flood two months ago.

“Trees washed down and busted some supports on the main bridge,” zoo maintenance worker Steven Wassing said. “And we had a decorative bridge that got washed away completely.”

However, no animals died in the August downpour thanks to the quick-acting staff, who moved the animals to higher ground the day the flood hit. Almost a week later, the zoo reopened and was back to business as usual.

“With minor things, we put warnings up,” said Melanie Price, the zoo’s leader of opening operations and visitor experience, as she pointed to the orange traffic cone on the zoo’s bridge. “We made most of the major repairs during the week.”

One major repair consisted of fixing the bridge leading from the parking area and ticket booth into the actual petting zoo. The North Georgia Zoo also had to replenish all of the gravel, mulch, animal bedding and hay, which was washed away. The zoo is still in need of gravel and donations to make some small minor repairs.

The only thing not affected by the damage is visitor attendance. Price said at first visitors were slow to return, but recent events have lured more people.

“They are coming here because the national parks are closed,” Price said. “The (waterfalls) are closed.

“And due (to) the fall season, people are here because the leaves are changing,” she continued. “And Oktoberfest in Helen probably helps, too.”

Some state government offices and banks also were closed Monday to mark Columbus Day. Price noted the zoo is not usually open Mondays, but the federal holiday changed the facility’s plan.

“We found out it was Columbus Day and figured everybody is off work,” she said. “So we are open.”

The zoo is also marketing a couple of upcoming events for the fall and holiday seasons.

On Oct. 18 and 25, staff members will conduct a wildlife walk at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. with a camel encounter at 1 p.m. Then “Boo at the Zoo” will be held Oct. 26 and 27 followed by pumpkin-smashing fun the first two weekends in November. Finally, a holiday celebration and live Nativity scene will be presented from Nov. 29-Dec. 1.

For more information about the zoo’s events, visit

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