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The former Cherry Brook Zoo in Saint John. Image: Staff photo

New life for former Cherry Brook Zoo in Saint John

By Brad Perry Oct 31, 2023 | 12:54 PM

A former New Brunswick zoo will be turned into a nature-based early learning and childcare campus.

Origins Natural Learning Childcare announced Tuesday that it has purchased the former Cherry Brook Zoo property in Saint John.

It is being described as a unique and innovative project for one of New Brunswick’s largest early learning and childcare companies.

Erin Schryer, president and CEO, said children will spend most of their days learning outdoors.

“We have 20 acres at the zoo so it certainly is a campus for these children to explore and to breathe in the fresh air every day and to move their little bodies and brains,” Schryer said in an interview

The project will emulate The Woods project in nearby Quispamsis, where infants, toddlers and preschoolers spend most of their time outside with access to outdoor classroom environments.

Schryer said they have seen an improvement in children’s behaviour and their interactions with one another.

“I can honestly say we have not had a child who does not thrive being outside the majority of the time,” she said.

Work will begin in January to renovate the two existing buildings on site. Schryer said they also plan to build a brand new early learning and childcare facility starting next spring.

Origins hopes to serve more than 100 new childcare spaces, with potentially as many as 200. Ideally, they would begin welcoming children next summer or fall.

“With all the space at the site, we’re going to welcome as many children as we can,” said Schryer.

Schryer said childcare space requests are not currently being accepted, but they will announce when registration is open.

Cherry Brook Zoo closed in 2020 due to “severe financial pressure” resulting from the pandemic. It had been in operation for over 40 years, opening in 1978.