SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- The Zoo in Forest Park has been a staple in western Massachusetts for 124 years.

Today, Sen. Eric Lesser announced that $75,000 from the state's 2019 budget will help improve the local treasure.

The zoo is home to 150 native and exotic animals. It's also a popular destination for students and families to visit.

During Tuesday's announcement, Lesser and other western Massachusetts legislators detailed the hard work they put into having the zoo make the 2019 budget.

The $75,000 will help the zoo with animal care year round, such as keeping the animals warm in the winter and improve internship programs.

"We are serving not just Springfield. We are serving the region and this funding enables more people to come in more programming, more specialized programming. This is educational focused," said Sarah Tsitso, the zoo's executive director.

The zoo told Western Mass News that if you see some vacant spaces inside the zoo, not to worry. In 2019, they will be adding brand new exciting attractions.

Lesser told Western Mass News that it's very important for urban communities in western Massachusetts to get the opportunity to go to a zoo and learn about animals.

"I want every single school kid, every single young person in western Mass. and Springfield and in the surrounding area to have access to this asset. We hope that the funding secured through this grant, through this earmark will do just that," Lesser explained.

Over 40,000 guests visited the Zoo at Forest Park in 2018. The zoo is expecting over 50,000 in 2019 as they celebrate their 125th anniversary.

Copyright 2018 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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