WASHINGTON - At a public meeting Wednesday, the director of the Smithsonian's National Zoo clarified that there are no immediate plans to add security checkpoints at the zoo.
Most of the people who came to the meeting wanted to talk about their opposition to the checkpoints. Renderings of bag check areas were included in a recent proposal to update security at the zoo, but National Zoo Acting Director Steve Monfort said there have never been plans to check bags year-round.
Currently, the zoo only checks bags during the two weeks of spring break. That started several years ago after issues with young people bringing weapons on the property. Monfort said the checkpoint drawings were part of security brainstorming in 2015.
"The idea was, at that time, that those type of permanent stations would allow us to do the screening during those two weeks and at other times if they were credible threats," Monfort said. "And we still, at some point in the future as we redo our master plan, there could still be shelters where people might stand if we were doing screenings in the future. But I can't say it enough times that the permanent plan that we have now is to not to do screening at all on a permanent basis."
The National Zoo is moving forward with plans to add 4,700 feet of fencing around the perimeter of the property and reduce the number entrances from 13 to six. There was talk of reducing entrances to just three, but under current plans, it will be six.
Monfort said few zoos in country have a public road running through, and fencing will help reduce the threat of a car coming into the zoo.
The new fencing and reduction of entrances still has to be approved by the National Capital Planning Commission.
If they are approved, changes could be in place by next year.
For more information on the security plan, go to https://nationalzoo.si.edu/news/perimeter-fencing-and-security-plan