Putney's Santa's Land could reopen in 2017

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PUTNEY >> The former Santa's Land would be turned into a zoological park and conservation site for endangered animals if one Marlboro resident has her way.

"I've known since a little girl, my life's mission is to inspire people to care for the earth and its animals," said C.S. Wurzberger.

Wurzberger, who grew up in Wilmington, is hoping to host 50-plus different species, offer educational programs to all ages and provide 30 jobs (not including volunteer and internship opportunities) by summer of 2017. She has received a plethora of emails and messages from people who wish to offer their help or services, but Wurzberger expressed that while that is all encouraging, she needs the community's financial support first.

"I need people to get excited about this; what really helps is when people donate $20 and then ask all their family to donate, too," said Wurzberger. "If everyone did that, we would be funded."

By May 1 of this year, Wurzberger needs to raise $375,000 for the property selling price. She hopes to have a total of $535,000 by May 1, which she says will cover the cost of the land, required permits and massive cleanup. Wurzberger said she went to seek funding at a local bank, but they would not offer a loan because of the property's recent history, where 18 animals died in 2014. Instead she is working closely with employees at the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation to learn about their programs and what options she has for this project.

According to Wurzberger, the bank told her that if she receives the $535,000 and the BDCC works with her, they will support the $2 million project with a loan.

"We need as much community excitement about this as possible, the loan process takes months so we need this crowd funding. If everyone puts in a $100, which comes with a season pass, we would have enough to clean the park up and more."

Wurzberger is offering several incentives for those that donate between now and May 1. Anyone who donates will be considered a "founding member," and will receive a tour of the park this summer with Wurzberger. The long list of incentives for each dollar amount can be found at thegreenupgirl.com/build-park.

With less than two months until her deadline, Wurzberger feels she is confident it will succeed because of the community need as well as her passion and background. She was the director of Smiling Hill Farm in Westbrook, Maine, a USDA licensed petting zoo with a dairy store, ice cream barn, and gift shop located on 150 acres where she oversaw 300 animals and 45 employees. She is trained in wildlife rehabilitation, she is a certified Green Event Planner, and for the past 16 years she has owned a green marketing company, as the "Green Up Girl, where she helped businesses with green initiatives. She has published a three-part series called, "Wildly Profitable Marketing,"and has also presented workshops for nationally known Mother Earth News Fairs and Green Festivals.

"This is not about animals in these horrible cages, it's about animals enjoying open pastures and exhibits," said Wurzberger.

Putney Town Manager Cynthia Stoddard also sees the good in Wurzberger's proposal.

"I am excited about her proposal. I think it would be a great addition to Putney," Stoddard said. "I hate to see that property be there without any activity and I think it will be nice to see that property come back to life."

Stoddard mentioned that she is keen on the school programs and camps for kids that are mentioned in Wurzberger's project proposal.

Wurzberger believes that her life experiences will help her with her three phase project, including the clean-up.

"When I look at the quantity of clean-up needed, I know what it's like to wear a face mask and clean-up the dirtiest stuff. It can be done and will be easier than what I had to clean up for Tropical Storm Irene," said Wurzberger.

Phase one of the project is May to July 2016 and involves the purchase of the site; getting water, electricity and septic on and functioning; massive cleanup, ground maintenance, setting up some classrooms; and moving in selected animals.

Phase two, which is scheduled for August through December 2016, involves fixing the gift shop's foundation, gutting the inside, insulating, adding energy efficient furnace, purchase of merchandise and opening of the gift shop both in person and online, repairs, building more animal exhibit and opening of the candy shop.

Phase three (spring 2017 and grand opening mid-May 2017) will include finishing touches on animal exhibits, move in of more animals and the grand opening launch.

Some of the animals that she hopes to bring to the site include a Mulefoot Hog, a rare species with fewer than 200 alive today. She also hopes to include the Milking Devon Cow (about 500 in existence), miniature donkeys (recovering phase) San Clemente Goats and up to 97 other species.

Wurzberger says some individuals of the community have already stepped up to donate online or through alternate sponsorship. Brattleboro Ford and Subaru has agreed to contribute an amount that we be settled within the coming weeks.

According to Stoddard, Wurzberger has applied for a zoning permit at will present to the Development Review Board on April 19, where she needs conditional use approval and a site plan review.

"I may be the person working my tail off to make this happen, but it's our earth and our community," said Wurzberger. " The 'we' in this project comes from all of us."

Contact C S Wurzberger directly at csw@TheGreenUpGirl.com or 802-258-8046, and online donations can be made at www.indiegogo.com by searching "Join Us in Building a Rare Breeds Zoological Park."

Maddi Shaw can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext 275


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