By Bird Bouchard
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Ridgetown Independent
We bought a zoo that is not just a movie – it’s a reality for a local family.
After more than 35 years, there are new owners at Greenview Aviaries Park and Zoo. Located in Morpeth, the private zoo has been sold to Rob and Alicia Patten.
According to Alicia, who has been coming to the zoo with her grandmother since it first opened, buying the zoo has been a dream come true.
This past Christmas, Patten’s grandmother passed away, leaving behind a message that would change her life.
“She left a note in the inheritance telling us to buy our dream property,” said Patten.
Alicia and Rob have ventured into a few businesses in the past. The couple has run an Airbnb and have spoken about the potential of owning a petting zoo one day.
But Alicia said they eventually found their dream property and business and fulfilled her grandmother’s wish.
As the property where she and her grandmother shared so many fond memories was listed for sale, Alicia and her husband knew it was an opportunity they couldn’t pass up.
Alicia admits running a zoo is much more than just dealing with animals. The new owner said she and her husband work 16-18 hour days, seven days a week.
“We have a gift shop, splash pad, restaurant, staff to manage, things to order and payroll. It is way more than I thought it would be, but it is amazing,” said Patten.
While it takes a dedicated team to run a zoo, Alicia said she has the two best helpers – her kids, Elliana and Adelyn.
“The kids watch animal planet, watch the animals here, and now they walk around educating people on the animals,” she said with a smile. “My eight-year-old knows how to operate the cash register, and my youngest keeps telling me how she is going to own this place one day.”
Since taking over as new owners, Alicia said the biggest change she and her husband have worked hard to make is the positive change in the animal’s welfare and behaviour.
“The animals have a more healthy and balanced diet. We are already getting compliments, and you can physically see the animals are more calm,” she said.
Alicia said many positive changes are currently happening, and many will continue to happen in the near future. She added they are also planning to change the enclosure for the big cats.
“It’s bugged me since I was a kid. It’s too small,” she said. “It’s going to look like Pride Rock from Lion King eventually.”
Alicia highlighted that her family is here for a long time and not just a good time. She said they are dedicated to improving the zoo and enhancing the overall experience for the customers.
“I want Ridgetown and the people of Chatham-Kent and beyond to know we’re here and we’re excited to be here. I want people to come back or come for the first time and see the positive changes we’re making,” she said.
The animal-loving family officially took over their dream property on June 1.