Youngsters delight over the young pigs at Forest Park Animal Farm in this 1999 photo. (Dan Bates / Herald file)

Youngsters delight over the young pigs at Forest Park Animal Farm in this 1999 photo. (Dan Bates / Herald file)

Future of Everett’s Animal Farm is uncertain

The petting zoo is funded through 2019, but if no group takes it over it’s likely to be eliminated in 2020.

EVERETT — For more than four decades the seasonal petting zoo at Forest Park has brought the farm experience to Everett.

The fate of the beloved summertime activity is uncertain as the city faces a multimillion dollar budget deficit.

It was set to be canceled for next year to help bridge the city’s financial gap. But at the urging of Everett City Councilmember and budget chairman Scott Murphy, funding for the Animal Farm was reinstated for 2019.

“I just know what a special amenity that is for us,” Murphy said Friday. “And to see that canceled without any additional effort didn’t make any sense from a quality-of-life standpoint.”

He has fond memories of taking his children to see the animals.

Murphy pushed for at least one more year of funding in the hopes another group would eventually take over the Animal Farm.

“Once you cancel something like this, it’s very difficult to get it resurrected, if not almost impossible,” Murphy said.

If another organization doesn’t take it over, Murphy said, funding for the Animal Farm likely will be eliminated during the next budget cycle.

In 2018, more than 35,000 people visited the Animal Farm, which is open for about seven weeks each summer. The activity, which is offered for free, costs the city about $70,000 a year. Paid seasonal staff and volunteers run the program. The largest expense is labor, said Kari Goepfert, a spokeswoman for the city.

The Animal Farm has housed horses, ponies, rabbits, chickens, ducks, pigs and goats.

“There aren’t many municipalities offering this kind of recreation in their communities,” said Lori Cummings, Everett’s director of parks and recreation.

Charging an entrance fee didn’t make sense, Cummings said.

Perhaps 4-H groups or a business already running a small farm could make good candidates for taking over the farm, she said.

“We aren’t sure what the interest will be,” Cummings said. “We’re still waiting. We haven’t heard from many.”

The city is accepting proposals through Dec. 16 from organizations interested in running the program.

Lizz Giordano: 425-374-4165; Twitter: @lizzgior.

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