From the City Manager's Desk

January 14th, 2019

Gary K. Clarke

Legendary Topeka Zoo Director, Safari Leader and Humanitarian Passes Away

It is with great sadness that the City of Topeka reports the passing of Gary K. Clarke, the first director of the Topeka Zoo, current Topeka Zoo Director Emeritus and President for Life of Cowabunga Safaris. 
Gary came to Topeka in 1963 as the City’s very first Zoo Director. It didn’t take much time for the community to realize that Gary embodied a personality and charisma unlike anyone else. From a Noah’s Ark Fundraising Campaign to a romance between two gorillas named Max and Tiffany, Topeka began to fall in love with its Zoo and its leader. 
What truly made Gary unique was his innovative approach and his desire to advance the standards of animal care throughout the zoological profession. In 1974, when the Topeka Zoo opened the first Rain Forest exhibit of any zoo, zoos around the world took notice. When other Zoo Directors would tell Gary that they were going to build something similar only bigger and better, Gary would reply, “That’s fine but we did it first.” 
His, "We did it first" attitude led to innovation, after innovation and when he started referring to the Zoo as the World Famous Topeka Zoo the expression was embraced by the community. When Gary left the Zoo in 1989 at the pinnacle of the World Famous Topeka Zoo era, the Zoo had an annual visitor-ship of nearly 300,000 people. 
Gary left the Zoo to focus full-time on his safari business, Cowabunga Safaris. He led 140 safaris to and around Africa. He loved both the lands and the people he traveled to. A Cowabunga Safari is different than other safaris by how it connects its travelers to the experience, that is Africa. At one point, nearly a generation of Zoo directors traveled to Africa with Gary. Those experiences shaped how African exhibits within Zoos were developed and interpreted. 
In the Zoo community, Gary was a leader and an icon. In Africa, he was known by many different names; each showing the affection of how he was revered. In the Topeka community, he was humble, proud and giving. He will be missed.

Property Maintenance and Habitat for Humanity Code Compliance Video  

 The City of Topeka Department of Property Maintenance and Habitat for Humanity have partnered for a monthly Facebook Live video series. This series discusses code violations and the simple ways that you can fix them in your own home. This month's topic was examining and replacing light fixtures. 

 Recent Updates 

  • There have been 15 broken water mains year to date. At this time last year there were 54 water main breaks. 
  • Utilities billing customers will see prorated charges on their next bill due to the 2019 rates going into effect.
  • Housing Services will start taking applications for the Property Maintenance Rehabilitation grant on February 1st.
  • Public Works staff attended a Kansas Concrete Awards Ceremony on Friday and received recognition for two projects: (1) SW Oakley (from 10th to 12th) and Washington Street (8th to 10th).

Snow and Ice Removal Plan 

Winter weather is here. Check out the city's snow and ice removal plan
You can also see a map of all the streets in Topeka to see if they have been treated. 
1.       Priority 1: Primary Streets: Arterial Streets and Emergency Snow routes
Service Level – Plowing will typically begin with 2” of snow accumulation. Complete snow and ice control within 24 hours of snowfall ending.
2.       Priority 2: Secondary Streets: Collector Streets
Service Level – Plowing will typically begin with 4” of snow accumulation. Complete snow and ice control within 24 hours after Priority 1 completion.
3.       Priority 3:  Residential Streets: Local Streets
Service Level – Plowing will typically begin with 6” of snow accumulation to ensure that they are passable to emergency services and general public as necessary upon completion of Priorities 1 through 2.

Coming Up

  • City Council Meeting, January 15th at 6 p.m.

Brent Trout 

This weekly report is presented to you from the office of City Manager Brent Trout.
This report was produced through our open data portal. We have several other open data portals to help connect you with the work we do, including portals that let you: