EVERETT — Simba is the extrovert of the bunch at Forest Park Animal Farm. He’s a curious fella who likes to approach visitors.
He also bears a striking resemblance to his Disney namesake from “The Lion King,” but he’s no big cat — he’s a rabbit, a mix of the lionhead and Holland lop breeds.
Puff and Cocoa, the petting zoo’s resident Lincoln sheep, are inseparable, roaming the grounds. Puff enjoys a good scratch on her forehead. The thick wool on her noggin makes her look like a bit like a 1980s rock star. Her pal Cocoa, the shy one, is never far from her side.
Then there’s HoHo, a 2-year-old angora goat, whose pointy horns don’t reflect her soft personality and even silkier mohair. She enjoys pats and scratches, too.
“Every animal that I’ve met here has just been completely different from one another,” said Katherine Wishon, farm manager. “They all have different personalities.”
Forest Park Animal Farm, open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily through Aug. 18, is home to sheep, chickens, ducks, rabbits, goats and horses. (Pigs are coming soon.) There are 34 animals in all. Many are provided by staff members, local farms and animal owners, while others are rescued strays from animal shelters.
The farm has been around for more than four decades. But budget deficits mean its long-term future is uncertain.
The suggested donation is $1 per person, making it a hit among families with young children. (More than 35,000 people visited in 2018.) Donations help offset the cost of feed, barnyard maintenance and staffing. The city picks up the rest of the bill.
Thousands come not just to pet the critters, but to take rides astride Dreamer, a 29-year-old Morgan horse owned by Everett teacher Meghan Maves-Watson.
Dreamer’s gentle personality puts riders at ease during their three to five minutes together, Wishon said.
He’s also a creature of habit.
“Every time he walks around in a circle, he always walks in the same steps,” said Wishon, a pre-veterinary and neuroscience student at Washington State University. “He knows exactly where he’s walking and where he’s going. He’s kind of memorized his route.”
Visitors also like to take pictures with the critters roaming the barnyard. You’re not allowed to pick them up, but you can pet them.
But after 40 years, it’s unclear how much longer the farm will stick around.
It costs Everett city government between $45,000 and $50,000 a year. Budget deficits put it on the chopping block in 2018. It was saved, at least for the time being.
City Councilman Scott Murphy championed the effort to keep the farm open. He said he fears the farm would never come back if it was shut down. The farm will stay open through 2020, Murphy said, but its costs will need to be considered with Everett’s budget each year after that.
The farm also means a lot to Murphy’s family. His wife, Kippy, who grew up in Everett, visited the petting zoo as a child. The Murphy kids spent time at the farm every summer when they were little, and one of them later worked there as a teenager.
“I’m not aware of any other cities in the region that have an animal farm like that. It’s just special,” he said.
The farm is the site of a former zoo that housed exotic creatures, dating back to 1914. Records show that, in 1923, it was home to about 200 animals, including bears, an elephant, lions, leopards and monkeys.
In 1976, the zoo was closed and the remaining animals shipped off to a game farm in Sequim. It’s been a petting zoo ever since.
Jan Tanner, recreation supervisor, who also visited the zoo as a kid, has overseen the farm since 2014. She says a visit can help parents teach their kids lessons about animals.
“There’s the great circle of life, and things do happen on the farm,” Turner said. “This is where their food comes from. You don’t really see that very often.”
The farm is staffed by 11 people, plus about 14 volunteers. Some of them grew up on farms.
“We’re a pretty small crew, but we have a lot of fun,” Wishon said. “Working with animals is a great time. We try and care for them as best as we can.”
Evan Thompson: 425-339-3427, firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ByEvanThompson.
Four barnyard friends
Simba: The 2-month-old lionhead and Holland Lop rabbit comes from the Everett Animal Shelter. He’s a friendly rabbit who seeks out the attention of visitors. He likes to stand on his hind legs and sniff the top of his cage. Simba’s favorite vegetable to munch on is carrots.
HoHo: The angora goat, who is 2 years old, is recognizable by the orange tag she wears. She grows very soft and curly hair called mohair, which is great for making fluffy sweaters and hats. She has a friendly demeanor, and likes to be pet, but often is found spending her time alone. (The two other Angora goats at the farm are Lion, an extrovert, and Sheep, who is timid. After the summer, HoHo will head back to Fleiger Farms in Maple Valley.
Boo Chicken: Katherine Wishon, farm manager, called this 5-year-old silkie chicken a “fun little guy.” He has a sweet personality. Boo was a stray who showed up at the animal farm during the off-season a few years ago. He has fluffy plumage that is as soft as silk. You’ll want to check out his feet: Silkies have five toes on each foot, whereas most chickens have four.
Dreamer: The 29-year-old Morgan horse is owned by Meghan Maves-Watson. He’s a gentle creature who has his pony-rides gig down pat: The horse has memorized the steps he takes when giving a child a three- to five-minute ride in his pen. He loves it when he is treated a special mix of grain, sweet cobs and carrots.
If you go
Forest Park Animal Farm, 802 E. Mukilteo Blvd., Everett, is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily through Aug. 18.
Admission is free. Suggested donation is $1 to offset the cost of feed, barnyard maintenance and staffing.
Pony rides are 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Thursday through Sunday starting June 27. For kids 2 and older. Subject to weather conditions, pony temperament and staff availability. Helmets are provided.
Starting July 5: For $35, take a bunny home for three days, or if you like, give it a forever home.
More at www.everettwa.gov/773/Animal-Farm.
This story has been modified to correct the cost for running Forest Park Animal Farm and clarify its status for the near future.