COLUMBIA – Gov. Henry McMaster along with members of the South Carolina Senate and House of Representatives will commemorate Riverbanks Zoo and Garden’s 48-year history with a senate resolution declaring May 4 Riverbanks Zoo and Garden Day in South Carolina. McMaster will sign the “Zoo Day” proclamation at 2 p.m. on the south steps of the Statehouse.
Members of the Zoo and the community are invited to attend the special occasion. The recognition will be observed annually on May 4 to celebrate the zoo’s stature as a global leader in animal care and welfare, education, recreation, science and wildlife conservation.
“This is a celebratory day for the Riverbanks’ staff, our members and guests, and the community,” said Tommy Stringfellow, president and CEO of Riverbanks Zoo and Garden. “We are extremely grateful to Governor McMaster and our state legislators for their support of Riverbanks, our endeavors as a leader in animal and plant care and wildlife conservation, and our economic impact on the local and state economies as a destination attraction.”
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Riverbanks has solidified its reputation as South Carolina’s largest gated tourist attraction and the most visited Zoo in the Southeast, welcoming more than 1 million guests annually. More than half of Riverbanks’ paid visitors are tourists living 50 miles or more outside of Columbia. More than 20% live outside of the state—travelling from all over the continental U.S. and as far away as Alaska, Brazil, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
A tourism driver, Riverbanks pumps nearly $150 million into the Midlands’ economy and has a $95.1 million economic impact on the state. Annual offsite spending by zoo and garden visitors results in nearly $30 million spread across accommodations, food and beverage, and retail. Air travel related to overnight stays is nearly $25 million.
“Riverbanks Zoo and Garden has been a point of pride for the Midlands and South Carolina since first opening,” said McMaster. “Their dedication to protecting wildlife and service as a powerful education tool has set them apart as one of the best zoos in America. It is a privilege to recognize them and all of South Carolina’s zoos for their impact on our state.”
Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and is home to 2,000 animals and more than 4,200 species of native and exotic plants. Another milestone in Riverbanks’ history came in 1995 with the opening of Rivebanks Botanical Garden. The award-winning botanical garden is considered one of the nation’s most beautiful and inspiring public gardens. Waterfall Junction, a 3-acre interactive children’s experience within the botanical garden, opened in April 2016 and is a new family favorite.
“After nearly 50 years, countless visitors have created unforgettable memories at Riverbanks Zoo. It’s a top-notch attraction for the Midlands and for South Carolina as a whole. We are grateful for their commitment to creating an outstanding visitor experience, and we are proud to celebrate this well-earned recognition,” said Duane Parrish, director of the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism
The senate resolution comes as Riverbanks prepares to boast yet another significant achievement with the opening of the Darnall W. & Susan F. Boyd Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center later this year. The renovation will feature dynamic and expansive new animal habitats and highlight the zoo’s role in wildlife conservation and conservation partnerships.