The Myrick Park Zoo is now permanently closed.
Myrick Park started as a purchase. In October 1837, the City of La Crosse paid Fanny Strasberger, $1,600 for 20 acres of land known for its "Turtle Mounds." In 1903, Lake Park was renamed to Myrick Park, after the first La Crosse settler Nathan Myrick. A couple years later, 1906, the music pavilion was erected at a cost of $800, plus $500 for electricity and sprinklers (the facility was demolished in 1974). About 20 years later, in August 1929, the new Myrick Zoo was dedicated. The Veterans of Foreign Wars and Mr. Thomas Rooney presented Monkey Island to the citizens of La Crosse.
Within two years, a duck pond and a raccoon pit were added. The duck pond (1939) cost the city $2,505 and the raccoon pit (1931) cost $634. Next was a shelter for a trapshooting headquarters for the gun club which was built in 1935. Two years later, 1937, the bird sanctuary submerged with the zoo. In 1939, tennis courts were built. Shortly following that was the construction of the main shelter as a WPA project (1941).
In 1945, a wading pool was installed, unfortunately it was removed in 2007. Within 50 years, many things were added. These items consist of: a Zoo Development Association (1949); winter quarters for the zoo (1952); a bear den, which the furry occupants were obtained from the State Game Farm in Poynette, Wisconsin (1954); a full time zoo keeper, peacocks were added along with a portion of the marsh being filled for a zoo parking lot (1955); vehicular traffic system was installed as an experiment in the "art" of black topping (1963); native Wisconsin and Minnesota animals were added, including: whitetail deer, bobcats, prairie dogs, and types of waterfowl (1970); a perimeter fence as a gift from the La Crosse Lions Club (1976); and a petting zoo including: calf, geese, chickens, goats, rabbits, and a fawn (July 1977) were all added.
In 1990, an animal inventory list was comprised naming several interesting inhabitants at the zoo. Among the animals were badgers, red fox, arctic fox, ferrets, tarantula, shrew, pheasant guinea pigs, chinchillas, and turkeys. Also in the 1990's, Kids Coulee was built by over 3,700 volunteers and more than $190,000 of the funding was donated to the effort.
In 2007, seven area Rotary Clubs, the City of La Crosse and the former Hixon Forest Nature Center came together to transform the old Myrick Park Zoo site into an innovative, dynamic destination attraction focused on environmental education and outdoor recreation. In 2009 the new EcoPark Center was opened which features interactive activities for children and families, aquarium animals, a live bee exhibit, the EcoPark library, and information on surrounding hiking and biking trails.
The EcoPark is currently constructing four outdoor adventure playscapes that focus on local ecosystems. These include: Wild Water, Forest Scramble, Prairie Mystery and Farm Play. While the EcoPark is currently fundraising to finish construction of the playscapes visitors can explore the beginnings and check out the EcoPark’s future plans.