Kent County animal park reopens despite stay at home order

BOWNE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — One of the businesses opening before the stay at home order expires is the Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park in Alto.

“There’s always going to be that worry. And we’ll just kind of roll with it and we can’t live on ‘what-ifs,’” said Josh Baker, park manager at Boulder Ridge Wildlife Animal Park. “And we’re just going to wait until it happens and go from there.”

Boulder Ridge managers say this has nothing to do with gaining a competitive edge.

Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park in Alto on its opening day of the season on May 15, 2020.
Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park in Alto on its opening day of the season on May 15, 2020.

“We already had this date set,” he said. “Some people were already excited to come, and we just figured we’re going to roll with it.”

The zoo has sanitizer stations set up and encourages following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s social distancing recommendations. But for many zoo-goers, the pandemic’s in the rear-view mirror.

“I haven’t been wearing a mask for two months, I’ve been touching gas pumps,” said Reka Stora, who came to the park with her family from Wayland. “I believe it’s about building our immune system. My faith is in God. I’m not worried about a virus.”

“Don’t have any qualms about coming out in this,” said Bill Johnson, who was visiting from Lansing. “I believe in herd mentality, so I’m all game for this.”

Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park in Alto on its opening day of the season on May 15, 2020.
Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park in Alto on its opening day of the season on May 15, 2020.

Customers said they’re more concerned about seeing the animals and supporting a local business.

“I do believe people have rights,” Stora said. “I do believe businesses have rights. I do think we need to be careful about what we’re doing to peoples’ rights here.”

Boulder Ridge believes the effects of COVID-19 will linger and asking for everyone to respect each other’s space.

But it’s not something it plans to overly enforce.

“As long as everybody seems to be happy at the end of the day, we’ll be happy with that, too,” said Baker.

Management says that it expects business to keep going smoothly and that there was nothing political about opening early.