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Plumpton Park's Drive-thru Zoo is a hit

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RISING SUN — Again this past weekend there were long lines of vehicles snaking through Plumpton Park Zoo to visit the animals.

Nicholas and Cheryl Lacovara, owners of the zoo on Telegraph Road in Rising Sun, were mindful of the rules on social distancing by requiring visitors to stay in their vehicles for the 20 to 30-minutes it took to travel from the front to the rear. Zoo staff and volunteers were masked.

Cheryl Lacovara said efforts were made to move animals not in the travel lane to that area so visitors got as much of an experience as possible for the $15 per car admission.

“We tried to pull animals forward,” she said Sunday, watching the line of cars amble past. A donkey, for example, was on display near the giraffes. “(Saturday) was warm enough to bring some reptiles and birds outside.”

Added to the fun was a closer than usual look at a baby wallaby with its soft brown fur and curious brown eyes snuggled into the arms of zookeeper Charline Contreyas.

“I’ve never see one before,” said Diane Greene from Fawn Grove, Pa. “I love that little tail.”

Chad Hoffman was also enamored of the baby, curled into a tight ball inside a blanket.

“I don’t think I remember seeing a baby wallaby before,” the Baltimore resident said.

Kristyn Simpson from Forest Hill was visiting with Andrew McCormick and their children, Landon, 6 and Cassy, 1. She prompted the youngsters to say which animals each had seen about half way through their Sunday trip. Landon called out he had seen Jimmie and Annabelle, the zoo’s pair of reticulated giraffes, the wallaby and peacocks.

The peacocks were hard to miss with their cacophonous calls from the trees and rooftops.

Marisa Ryan said the drive-thru trip was not as different as the time she walked through to visit the 200 animals in the community zoo.

“It is nice that they moved some of the animals so you could see more,” Ryan, from Newark, said.

Like most other businesses and non-profits Plumpton Park Zoo closed in March by order of Gov. Larry Hogan to stem the spread of COVID-19. The Lacovaras devised a way to drive through the property and added food service in keeping with the take out or delivery rules being followed by restaurants. Each carload had to purchase at least one bagged lunch.

“It’s been very positive. People are thankful we opened,” Cheryl Lacovara said, adding the animals also enjoyed seeing visitors again. The weekend tours began May 9. On average 250 vehicles — each holding no more than 5 people — drove the circuit each Saturday and Sunday.

“We have over 400 on a waiting list,” she said, adding the next dates have not been established. “Each day sold out in about two hours.”

Nick Lacovara built an online Google survey for visitors and supporters. Those that answer the survey are placed on the waiting list for future tours.

Meanwhile, the loss of income continues to impact the zoo. Donations can be made online at plumptonparkzoo.org

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