Nearly one year after flooding, Duluth zoo CEO to retire

A little over a year ago Sam Maida was planning his retirement as CEO of the Lake Superior Zoological Society, which runs the 90-year-old Lake Superior Zoo in Duluth.

Then a record flash flood tore through the zoo last June, allowing two seals and a polar bear to temporarily escape their enclosures, and bringing international attention to the facility.


Photo courtesy Ellie Burchar

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Maida, who has worked at the zoo for 20 years, remained as CEO to help lead its recovery. He and the zoo's board will jointly determine his departure date.

"The flood forced us to shift our priorities," he said. "But we're now ready to move ahead with the transition."

Nearly a year after the flood, the zoo is still recovering. Flood relief funding from the state will restore the creek that flows through the zoo back to pre-flood condition later this year. The rushing waters deposited tons of sand and gravel in the creek bed. Retaining walls also will be repaired.

The zoo reopened a month after the flood, aided by a small army of volunteers who cleaned the facility of debris.

But the Polar Shores exhibit that housed Berlin, the polar bear that temporarily escaped during the flooding, remains closed. Berlin has since moved to the Kansas City Zoo. Maida said the zoo is still deciding what to do with that facility. Maida said no recovery funding was made available for zoo exhibits.

Last summer's flooding killed 11 animals, including sheep, goats and a donkey.

"We're sensitive to those losses," Maida said. "But we're not dwelling on that. We're looking forward."