ASHEBORO-The North Carolina Zoo, along with its parent agency, the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the N.C. Department of Transportation and several other partner agencies will hold opening ceremonies for a new Constructed Wetlands exhibit at the zoo at 10:30 a.m. Friday.

One of the objectives in the N.C. Zoo's ongoing Environmental Management System is reducing contamination to the North America lake from rainwater runoff. As a partner in DENR's Environmental Stewardship Initiative, the zoo received a $5,000 grant in November 2004 to design a constructed wetland to filter stormwater runoff from its North America region parking lot. In addition, the zoo sought to educate visitors about the importance of wetlands to protecting and preserving the environment.

Speakers for Friday's opening ceremonies will include Zoo Director Dr. David Jones, DENR Chief Deputy Secretary Manly Wilder, NCDOT Chief Operating Officer Jim Trogdon and Richard Rogers, executive director of the Clean Water Management Trust Fund. The media is invited to attend.

Planning for the $1 million project included testing for runoff contaminants and designing the wetland, which included selecting plants, educational features explaining wetland benefits, a picnic deck and tying the 1.5-acre wetland to a nearby picnic area and trails. Students attending the Asheboro High School Zoo School assisted with the plant list and cost estimates of the plants. They will also help perform continued water monitoring requirements for the project, which is located adjacent to the zoo's North America lake. NCDOT is also providing automated water samplers for monthly water quality monitoring by the zoo.

The N.C. Zoological Society matched the $5,000 DENR grant and plans to seek sponsorship for an associated picnic deck. NCDOT partnered with Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc. to conduct the feasibility study, which was completed in August 2005.

Information from the feasibility study was used to apply for CWMTF funding in December 2005, and the application was approved for $406,000 in July 2006. NCDOT agreed to provide $130,000 in design funds and worked with KHA and the Office of State Construction to produce the final plans and bid documents. The project went to bid in April 2008. Since construction costs had increased, the zoo applied for and received an additional $217,000 in CWMTF money. Construction was completed in May 2009 and the zoo's horticulture staff finished the landscaping in June 2009.

The zoo is an agency of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Dee A. Freeman, Secretary; Beverly E. Perdue, Governor.