A division of Metro Parks Tacoma has reopened with safety protocols for social distancing under the order of the governor’s Safe-Start plan. Located in Eatonville, Wash., a section of Northwest Trek reopened for visitors participating in the Wild Drive tour with paid entry tickets on May 27 during phase one.
This 435-acre free-roaming area filled with native Northwest wildlife, offers scenic views of forests, swamps, open meadows and Horseshoe lake.
“Wild Drive is unlike anything we’ve ever offered at Northwest Trek,” said Tim Reid, president of the Metro Parks Tacoma Board of Commissioners in a press release. “We’re excited to offer our community an unforgettable opportunity to experience wildlife and nature up close in a safe way during this time of social-distancing restrictions.”
The public can drive through paths previously reserved for tour buses, watching scenery and wildlife like Roosevelt elk, moose, caribou, bison, bighorn sheep and black-tailed deer. Small caravans of cars will be led through the park by a staff member for the safety of the public.
Guests taking tours have the option to download a live audio app for the park in order to listen to an experienced naturalist discuss the sights, educating people about the wildlife as the tour continues. No animal feeding or interactions are allowed to ensure the health and safety of all visitors and staff. Pets are prohibited on the premises even in vehicles.
Visitors will congregate in their vehicles near the entrance of the park to enter through the employee animal keeper gate. Timed entry tickets can be purchased on the Northwest Trek website with a cost of $80 per vehicle or $70 for members; reservations are required to permit entry. The tour takes approximately one hour, with the caravan slowing on multiple occasions to spot animals and talk about the native species of the Northwest.
Caravan tours are limited to ten registered vehicles, with a maximum of eight people in one household per vehicle according to Northwest Trek’s website. Tour dates have already been sold out from May 22 to July 5.
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums is credited for ensuring that the park’s wild animals receive the best care possible, as well as ensuring the overall welfare of the zoo, according to a press release by Northwest Trek. It is also mentioned in the release that the zoo is a 723-acre conservation park, dedicated to displaying and researching native wildlife within their natural habitats.
The section of the park that won’t be accessible to the public is the walk-through area with enclosures that house predatory animals. The gift shop and zip-line course, Zip Wild, will also be temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 safety restrictions.
Despite the temporary closure of the rest of the park, guests will be able to experience watching animals the way the park’s keepers do, with up-close interaction in their wild habitats, according to Deputy Director Rick Dietz of Northwest Trek in the press release.
With spring being the season for baby bison, Roosevelt elk, bighorn sheep and many other species, the park’s accommodations for the public offer a limited-time drive through experience that can be accessed within their own vehicles.
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