Project Updates

Journey with us as we build a pathway to nature and bring our community closer to the natural world, and to each other.

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A Community Project

The Treetop Trail is a unique opportunity to reimagine what a 21st century zoo can be. From the very beginning, project leaders at the Minnesota Zoo recognized that a central tenet of the design and programming is that it be inclusive and welcoming to all. In order to ensure accessibility and inclusivity, Zoo leadership approached the University of Minnesota’s School of Design to develop a Community Co-Design project.

“We wanted to ensure that we had as many voices at the table as possible,” explains Jamie Flaws, Treetop Trail Program Manager. “We really wanted to bring community residents and their networks to the table, and we knew that their involvement would positively influence all aspects of design.”

Facilitated by the University’s School of Design, several workshops were held over the summer of 2021 with nine community co-designers with a wide range of experience and diverse backgrounds. The intention behind the Co-Design project was to collect information generated by community members to guide the design of the new spaces, and to generate new ideas for how the Zoo can engage with and better serve its larger community.

“It was important to the integrity of this project that participants shape the conversation, and that the process amplified voices not always heard in the rooms where decisions are being made,” shares Emily Stover and Joseph Hang, Design and Research Fellows with the University of Minnesota.

Members of the committee contributed their thoughts, opinions, and feedback on numerous aspects of the design and program planning. From the actual dimensions of the trail and materials used, to technology infrastructure, safety, welcomeness, and programming and engagement opportunities, the committee guided it all.

“Our team believes the early outcomes of this work demonstrate the incredible value of community members directly participating in the design process,” emphasizes Stover and Hang. “It will be exciting to see the Zoo continue to nurture long-term relationships with the diverse communities it serves, and create opportunities for their experiences to shape the future of the Minnesota Zoo.”

Guided by the Community Co-Design process, the Minnesota Zoo’s Treetop Trail will serve as a portal into the natural world, for all members of our shared community.

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