Senator Lesser tours the Zoo at Forest Park

Ray Hershel, Western Mass News SPRINGFIELD--Remember the tough winter when Springfield's Forest Park Zoo lost two monkeys? Upgrades have been made, and on Tuesday, state Sen. Eric Lesser toured the zoo with the goal of making it a regional tourist attraction. Last December, one of the zoo's monkeys died after a fight with other monkeys and just days after, a second monkey died after a circuit breaker tripped, knocking out power and heat to the monkey's shed. The zoo has a new alarm system in place to take care of the heating problem where the monkeys were living and is making other improvements.

"We've been able to install the temperature gauge system. We're working with the city officials to get the electrical improved from the park into the zoo. It's consistent facility improvement at the zoo which is nice," said Meghan Rothschild, a member of the zoo's board of directors.

Once the electrical system is improved, Rothschild added that the zoo is hoping to install temperature gauging systems in other locations as well to better protect the animals.

Lesser toured the zoo, saying he wants to make the zoo a tourist destination stop in the Pioneer Valley.

"I'm the chair of the tourism committee in the Senate and we want to make sure we look at the zoo as part of the broader picture of attractions that we're pitching to the region and the country,” Lesser said.

Lesser noted that the key is getting the word out about the zoo, which he calls a gem. And there could be state funding to help.

"It is a tough budget year and it's hard to find state funds, but there are a variety of state programs that help with tourist promotion," says Lesser.

Zoo officials are thrilled about additional promotional help,

"We're excited for the opportunity of what this could mean. and we're constantly trying to raise awareness and let people know we're here," Rothschild explained.

The zoo is now open for the season, seven days a week.