Noccalula Falls to receive $1 million for petting zoo project


Submitted photo: Gadsden Mayor Craig Ford holds a young Eastern Grey kangaroo in April 2023.


By Kaitlin Hoskins, News Editor

The petting zoo facility at Noccalula Falls Park will soon undergo reconstruction.

The petting zoo’s barn, which housed birds, reptiles and guinea pigs, was severely damaged in a May 2021 fire.

The fire incident lead to the death of about 75 animals and the near total destruction of the barn building. Foul play was not suspected in the blaze.

Now, the city is preparing to build a new structure and bring in new animals to the park’s popular petting zoo.

At the Tuesday, June 13, Gadsden City Council meeting, the council unanimously voted to award a bid in the amount of $1,196,101.50 to Bob Smith Construction for the Noccalula Falls animal habitat.
The bid submitted by Bob Smith Construction was recommended by City Engineer Heath Williamson, as the bid was deemed the lowest bid submitted.

The reconstructed animal habitat will be home to several new animals, including a kangaroo or two, according to Gadsden Mayor Craig Ford.

“This is something I worked with Councilman [Chris] Robinson on,” Ford said. “We really wanted to bring this back. There was some talk about not bringing it back, but we’re bringing it back. There will even be additional animals. We have one kangaroo coming and another one possibly on its way. This is a big announcement. We have some other animals we will be announcing soon.”

District 7 Councilman Chris Robinson, whose district includes Noccalula Falls, echoed Ford’s statement by reminding the public that this would be “very good for the park.”

In addition to the approval of the $1 million construction plan, the council also approved a special event alcohol license for the park’s annual Barbarian Challenge, which will take place this Saturday.

The Barbarian Challenge is a nearly six-mile-long obstacle course that runs through Noccalula Falls Park. It consists of over 25 natural and man-made obstacles, including rope climbs, mud pits, creek crossings and hill climbs.

The main challenge is open to those 13 years and older and an untimed kids challenge is available for younger competitors.

The main challenge kicks off at 8 a.m., Saturday, June 17.

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