The Association for Zoos and Aquariums recently recognized Mariah Martinez of the Potter Park Zoo with the Angela Peterson Excellence in Diversity award.
The 25-year-old community engagement coordinator won this award through implementation of the zoo pass program. This program allows members of surrounding communities to check out a zoo pass and bring their whole family to the zoo for free.
While there are several reasons Martinez believes she was recognized, such as working to create an accessible zoo and training staff about disabilities visitors may have, she believes the zoo pass program was a main reason she was picked.
“Other zoos do do free programming, but I think the zoo passes was a very different thing and I hope other zoos pick up on it,” Martinez said.
She says the zoo plans to grow its zoo pass program while working on other ways to accommodate all members of the community at the zoo. One way Martinez is working on currently is getting a grant to repave the zoo’s paths, making them more wheelchair accessible.
“We don’t want to just have a stand-still,” said Martinez. “We just want to keep improving, keep researching, keep being trained, things like that.”