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About Us

Our Mission

Awakening a connection to Wild Life with everyone in the Pacific Northwest.

Our vision

We envision a future where all people in our communities are engaged in the care and protection of nature.


Read our 2022-2027 Strategic Plan highlights here.

Our rigorous standards

We are nationally accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), which ensures rigorously high standards of animal welfare, veterinary care, conservation, education and more.

Who We AreMoose statue at front gate

Northwest Trek Wildlife Park is a facility of Metro Parks Tacoma, an independent government agency creating healthy opportunities to play, learn and grow since 1907. A five-member Board of Park Commissioners governs Metro Parks Tacoma and is the policy determining body for the park district.


As part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), we recognize and embrace human diversity in all its forms and facets, and recognize that our work to conserve wildlife and wild places is inextricably linked to issues of environmental and social justice. We are committed to proactively working toward greater diversity, equity, access and inclusion in all that we do.
Full DEAI statement.

Our History

In 1971, Dr. David “Doc” and Connie Hellyer donated the original land that became Northwest Trek Wildlife Park to Metro Parks Tacoma. After four years of diligent fundraising and planning, Northwest Trek officially opened its doors on July 17, 1975.

Doc and Connie HellyerOver the next 15 years, the park expanded its exhibits, debuting the snowy owl, cougar, bobcat, lynx, wolf and bear exhibits. In 1994, the park set an all-time attendance record with more than 210,000 visitors, following the opening of the new grizzly bear exhibit.

Pierce County residents have shown strong support for Northwest Trek Wildlife Park over the years, approving several park bonds for improvements and additional exhibits. In 2000, Pierce County voters again expressed their support by passing a county-wide sales tax measure, which supports more than 40 percent of the park’s budget.

In 2005, Metro Parks purchased 100 acres bordering the northern end of the park, protecting the tram route from residential encroachment and providing new space for future conservation initiatives. A partnership between Northwest Trek, Pierce County, the Land Conservancy and several generous private donors made the land purchase possible.

On January 20, 2006, Dr. Hellyer passed away and in July of 2012, his devoted wife, Connie, passed away. Their passion and commitment to Northwest wildlife and habitats lives on at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park. The park continues to play a significant role in the lives of community residents and generations to come.

How We Are Funded

Northwest Trek is funded entirely through a combination of sales tax revenue, grants, donations and earned revenue, including admission fees and revenue from food and gift sales.

Our sister zoo

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma is the only combined zoo and aquarium in the Pacific Northwest. The 29-acre zoological park was established in 1905, and attracts about 700,000 visitors a year. The Zoo sits within 700-acre Point Defiance Park, offering spectacular views of Mount Rainier, the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound. Like Northwest Trek, PDZA is nationally accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), as well as the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums (AMMPA).

Together, we make up the Zoological and Environmental Education Division (ZEED) of Metro Parks Tacoma.

Northwest Trek Foundation

The Northwest Trek Foundation is a Washington state registered 501(c) 3 non-profit organization that promotes conservation, education and recreation to a regional and national community through the display of native wildlife in their habitats at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park. Mobilizing volunteers and donors to bring their time, talent and financial resources to support our programs is key to the work of the Foundation.

Learn more about the Foundation

Zoo/Trek Authority

The Zoo/Trek Authority was established in 2001 to oversee disbursement of sales tax revenue to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium and Northwest Trek Wildlife Park. In 2000, Pierce County voters approved a one-tenth-of-a-cent increase in the local sales tax rate to support the Zoo, Northwest Trek and parks.

One-half of these new local revenues go to Point Defiance Zoo and Northwest Trek. The other half is divided among park systems throughout Pierce County.

The ZTA is composed of seven elected officials appointed by city and county councils as follows:

  • Pierce County Council: 3 members
  • Tacoma City Council: 2 members
  • Other Pierce County cities/towns: 2 members

The ZTA is charged with approving the biennial operating budgets for Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium and Northwest Trek prior to final adoption by the Metro Parks Tacoma Board of Commissioners.

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