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The tunnel reopens to make new memories for Toledo Zoo guests

Memories of Christmas’ past returned to the Toledo Zoo Friday night as thousands showed up for the opening night of the Lights Before Christmas.

TOLEDO (WTOL) - Memories of Christmas’ past returned to the Toledo Zoo Friday night as thousands showed up for the opening night of the Lights Before Christmas.

Both young and old enjoyed the events, especially one that just reopened. Guests crossed the Anthony Wayne Trail in a different way.

The tunnel originally opened in the 1930s, but has been closed to guests for more than 20 years. Friday the tunnel saw new life and visitors once again as they crossed over to the south side of the zoo underground.

It was an exciting night, not just for this year’s opening night of the Lights Before Christmas, but for the grand reopening of the tunnel under the Anthony Wayne Trail.

Construction began in June, after Lucas County voters approved a levy that contributed to the $2 million project.

“It wasn’t that bright years ago,” remembered Becky Johnson, a zoo volunteer. “It was very dark, dingy and watery and it was pretty.”

"It smelled like fresh paint instead of dirty mold," added Mary Alice Donofrio, her friend and another zoo volunteer.

“I loved it,” said Hannah Anteau, new owner of a subway tile in the tunnel. “It was so cool and awesome and amazing."

”This is a part of Toledo’s history and a part of the fabric of having grown up and lived here,” explained Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz.

The walls of the tunnel were once bare, but now are coated with one of a kind artwork thanks to the art commission.

For so many walking through the newly renovated tunnel it brought back memories and displayed the Toledo Zoo’s commitment to their history.

“It just brings back all the memories,” explained Abbey Anteau, a mother taking her children through for the first time. “You know the cage above us where the “alligators” lived and it was really cool that our kids get to experience it, and their kids get to experience it. It means a lot."

”When you have something like this that’s been there and was well-constructed and brings back such good memories,” explained Terri Schultz, a zoo volunteer. “And you’ve got the zoo that takes care of all your WPA (Works Progress Administration) buildings and it means a lot, it means that they care and it’s a good feeling."

Wayne Johnson was one of the first down the tunnel Friday night and hoped he would find the metal grate he used to jump on as a kid.

“It was there and I was the first one to jump on it and everybody heard it,” joked Johnson.

"We heard you, we heard you," added his friends while laughing

.With so much excitement about meeting Santa, seeing reindeer and so much more at the Lights Before Christmas now you can get wherever you want in the zoo both above and below the ground.

The lights will continue at the Toledo Zoo until December 31st. For more information you can visit their website here.