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Buffalo Zoo looks to nearby church, streets for more parking spots

The Buffalo Zoo is looking at a church parking lot and off-street parking to add 150 parking spaces for peak times and weekends at one of the county’s most popular tourist attractions.

Most of the parking would be on Crandall Circle, behind the zoo. The remainder would come from using the lot at St. George Orthodox Church, 2 Nottingham Terrace and Amherst Street, where a shuttle would transport people from nearby Ring Road to the zoo.

The zoo parking lot can hold 307 cars, or 30 buses.

“The parking lot fills up pretty early in the day, so this will be very helpful for us to have extra parking available for zoo visitors,” said Rachel Gottlieb, zoo’s spokeswoman.

“On really busy days we’ve heard people will get here and see the lot is full and leave. It’s definitely been a growing concern as we improve the zoo and see an increase in attendance.”

The use of the church parking lot would occur only when there isn’t a conflict with church services.

Directive signs from the zoo parking lot, when full, would help navigate people to the supplemental parking.

The zoo ran the colorful Zoofari Shuttle, which was sponsored by MASH Urgent Care, last year to Medaille College’s parking lot and to make pickups from two downtown hotels. The Nichols School parking lot was also used.

The zoo has nine gates that were used years ago when admission was free. Gottlieb said administrators have not pursued using them for entrance for various reasons, including the computerized ticketing system. The gates are used for construction and delivery.

Mayor Byron W. Brown announced the additional parking in his State of the City address. The city’s Department of Public Works and Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy worked together to find the extra parking without losing any of Delaware Park’s green space.

Amber Small, executive director of the Parkside Community Association, said the additional parking spaces will help the neighborhood by alleviating traffic backup onto Parkside Avenue when the lot fills up.

The city, with the association’s input, is installing a center turn lane for entering the zoo this spring.