THE OWNER of a Heckmondwike animal park says he isn’t letting the latest spate of vandalism get in the way of re-opening the refurbished site.
Parts of Ponderosa Rural Therapeutic Centre were smashed up last week by vandals who threw chairs in the water, broke picnic tables, stole bird boxes and tried to open animal cages.
The zoo, off Smithies Lane, was closed last October for a complete makeover, days after a series of complaints were made online which claimed that some of the attraction’s animals were housed in unsuitable conditions.
But Ponderosa officials said the revamp was long-planned and unconnected to the flurry of bad publicity.
Despite the latest vandalism setback it is due to re-open on May 7 with new attractions, revamped animal pens and more facilities for people with learning difficulties.
Founder Howard Cook MBE said: “We worked through tough conditions all winter – gritting the roads, keeping the animals going, feeding the animals, and then you’ve got these people trying to pull you backwards.
“It’s just so hard and it makes you wonder at times what you do it for, and they’re affecting the people that we’re looking after with learning difficulties.
“We’ve 70 people here every day and they take pride in what they do and when they see things that are pulled down and smashed up they’re all in tears.
“People don’t see that and that’s the part I’m very annoyed about.”
Mr Cook says the renovation plans are just a sign of things to come at the park, which aims to bridge the gap between disabled and able-bodied people.
“We never give in, we aren’t defeatist,” insisted Mr Cook.
“We have a lot of different visions, we’ve really looked at everything.
“The gardens have all been done up, all the pens have been re-shaped, we’ve moved all the animals and we’ve got a lot more facilities for a lot more people.”
A spokesman for West Yorkshire Police confirmed reports of criminal damage between April 5 and 7.
Mr Cook offered a £1,000 reward to help catch the culprits, and said he had given the name of a potential suspect to police who were carrying on their investigations.
The 74-year-old also confirmed he had submitted plans with Kirklees Council to adapt the animal park even further.