The Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines received a $250,000 gift from the Greater Des Moines Community Foundation Wednesday for the zoo’s planned expansion. The acting president of the foundation, Barry Griswell, says the grant equals the largest amount the charitable group has ever handed out.

Griswell says, "I can assure you that a $250,000 grant from us is pretty significant and when we make a grant like that we really look for a project that can be leverage and meets many different needs in our community." Zoo officials say they need 40-million dollars to expand.

They’ve named the state’s three former governors – Robert Ray, Terry Branstad and Tom Vilsack – as honorary chairs of the fundraising campaign. The zoo’s chief executive officer, Terry Rich, says the campaign will enable the zoo to expand to four times its current size.

"This is the start to get the architect going, the planning going to bring in the experts. It’s easy to raise $100,000 or a million dollars for an exhibit..but what we want to do is not just have an exhibit. We want a world-class exhibit," Rich says. Rich says the expansion will take place gradually.

"We’re going to try to add something new every year. So we’re hoping to turn some dirt, to see some things this fall for next summer, but you’re going to see the real big expansion,the golf course moved and the big area we’ve talked about will probably be in two to three years." The new zoo will be four times larger than the current facility, expanding from 23 acres to over 100 acres.