‘I lost money but I did what wanted to do’

The Glengarry News - - News - BY AN­GELA BROWN News Staff

For Alexan­dria res­i­dent Leanne Gre­goire go­ing to the zoo to­day brings back fond mem­o­ries of the unique Lan­caster at­trac­tion her grand­fa­ther started 48 years ago. “Ev­ery­one has a spe­cial mem­ory of that zoo,” said Mrs. Gre­goire, a vol­un­teer at The Palace Re­tire­ment Res­i­dence in Alexan­dria who re­cently gave res­i­dents in­sight into a piece of Glen­garry his­tory.

Her grand­fa­ther, Re­jean Julien, started the Lan­caster Zoo in the Spring of 1968 and ran it un­til 1972 on County Road 2, near Sum­mer­stown, now the Cooper Marsh con­ser­va­tion area.

“I still have peo­ple who come in from the States and ask about the old man who had the zoo,” said Mr. Julien. “It gives me a lit- tle thrill ev­ery time.”

The park was home to 185 an­i­mals, in­clud­ing bears, lla­mas, lynx, snakes, birds and fish. The 52-acre prop­erty also had a curd cheese fac­tory run by Wil­burn Kyer, a restau­rant, a fish stand, a sou­venir shop, a doll mu­seum, a wind­mill, and a wish­ing well, and his fam­ily’s home.

Mrs. Gre­goire heard sto­ries from her mother Lise Ter­riah, who was 13 at the time, of the fam­ily’s ad­ven­tures grow­ing up be­side a zoo. Re­jean’s and his wife Ge­or­gette’s seven chil­dren con­sid­ered the zoo an­i­mals pets and gave many of them names.

One of Lise’s sis­ters, Deb­bie Julien, was 3 when the li­on­ess, Sonya, ac­ci­den­tally slightly bit the jacket sleeve of her right arm when she was near its cage one day. Her fa­ther took her to hospi­tal. For­tu­nately, her arm wasn’t in­jured, save for a “love bite,” a small mark on her arm from two teeth marks she still has to­day. “I re­mem­ber my fa­ther clean­ing it with io­dine twice a day, and it healed,” Deb­bie said, adding Sonya was “such a beau­ti­ful lion.”

De­spite this lit­tle mishap, none of the zoo an­i­mals hurt any­one. Most of the an­i­mals were do­nated as ba­bies and were quite tame.

Deb­bie said when the li­on­ess was still a baby, her sis­ters used to try to sneak it into the house and even into their beds. Mr. Julien closed the zoo af­ter strug­gling fi­nan­cially with the non-profit op­er­a­tion, and later sold the prop­erty to Wil­liam Cooper who turned the site into Cooper Marsh.

Mr. Julien had hoped the park could have re­ceived gov­ern­ment fund­ing as an ed­u­ca­tion and tourism ven­ture.

“I tried, I am not sorry that I tried. I lost money but I did some­thing that I wanted to do,” he said. Now 82, Mr. Julien had worked as a taxi­der­mist when he was young and de­vel­oped a love for an­i­mals. Be­fore open­ing the zoo he re­ceived train­ing at Granby Zoo in Québec, and fi­nanced the Lan­caster op­er­a­tion us­ing his own money af­ter leav­ing his job as a Corn­wall po­lice of­fi­cer.

The zoo and amuse­ment park drew visi­tors from through­out the area, as well as Québec and the U.S. Af­ter the zoo closed, he went on to be­come an an­i­mal con­trol of­fi­cer for the dis­trict.

The only ves­tige of the once pop­u­lar site is a large cage that held three griz­zlies. Mr. Julien still has a soft spot for all crea­tures. “I en­cour­age peo­ple to keep an­i­mals -- as long as you look af­ter them, and feed them well.”

A “love bite” did not di­min­ish the fam­ily’s love for Sonya, the li­on­ess

AN­GELA BROWN PHOTO

WILD STO­RIES: For­mer Lan­caster Zoo cu­ra­tor Re­jean Julien and his wife Ge­or­gette with some of the pho­tos of their zoo.

AN­GELA BROWN PHOTO

TIGER TALES: The Palace Re­tire­ment Res­i­dence vol­un­teer Leanne Gre­goire, left, joins ac­tiv­ity di­rec­tor Nicole Bour­bon­nais, fol­low­ing Mrs. Gre­goire’s talk about her fam­ily’s con­nec­tion to the for­mer Lan­caster zoo. Be­low: A let­ter writer had urged the...

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