Hittin’ The Town: Erie Zoo continues its longstanding tradition of caring for hundreds of animals

The Lagoon Deer Park in Sandusky has been open for more than 50 years.
Published: Sep. 16, 2022 at 5:13 PM EDT
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SANDUSKY, Ohio (WTVG) - Our region is home to some great zoos, and one of them is in Erie county.

Lagoon Deer Park is a petting zoo that was started more than a half-century ago, and it’s still going strong today. The home to hundreds of animals was first opened in 1956. Tradition and legacy are two prominent principles for the deer park as the fourth generation of the family is working there today.

It all started after Cynthia Nielsen’s grandparents took a trip to a deer park while they were on a vacation. They came home and started their own.

“My grandfather had a passion for animals, and my dad continued that on. My dad had a pet mountain lion growing up. They had a boa constrictor, a chimpanzee. We’re a little more tame now,” Nielsen said.

Nielsen said she loves her work as General Manager of the park, and she has a bit of a fan club. “I’ll be out somewhere, and random people will say, “you’re the deer park girl, aren’t you?”

She’s popular with all the animals, too. “It’s kind of like being Snow White with all the animals following you. It’s magical,” Nielsen said.

And she has a lot of four-legged friends. The park is home of more than 200 animals. “We have deer, llamas, goats, sheep, elk, peacocks, donkeys, emus, a Scottish highlander, and a few other exotic animals,” Nielsen said.

And there’s more. “We also have 56 acres of fishing ponds. We have crappie, largemouth bass, catfish, and bluegills,” Nielsen added.

It’s a lot of work taking care of the animals, but Nielsen describes the experience as a labor of love for the family.

“We’re here 365 days a year, it doesn’t matter if it’s snowing, raining, or an ice storm. We are here caring for them. It’s a passion you truly have to have,” Nielsen said.

Nielsen loves watching the animals work their magic on visitors, especially the littlest ones. “You know when kids have an ah-ha moment, especially when it’s something for the first time. You see that happen here. It’s a big part of the charm and magic.”

And just like Nielsen’s family, this is a special place for a lot of other families.

“We see people come back generation after generation, and it’s become a huge family thing. I’m blessed to be part of it,” she said.

People of all ages come from all over to visit. It’s a great chance for them to take a break from their daily lives and unwind.

Nielsen said it’s a wonderful place to “unplug and reconnect with nature”.

" People come and spend the whole day fishing and feeding the animals,” she added.

Nielsen said the park is a great place to remind visitors of the importance of all living creatures.

“It really is important that we take care of our environment and appreciate the animals that help us do that and the whole system that is going on behind the scenes we may not even recognize. I think sometimes we forget how important every little thing and how important nature is. I’m passionate about that.”

And this is a great place for Nielsen to help spread that message.

The deer park will be open through the end of October. If we get some nice fall weather in early November, it may be open on weekends then.

To learn more, click here.

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