New Kentucky Trails Exhibit Seeks to Redefine Zoo Experience

Continuing the Louisville Zoo’s mission to “Better the Bond Between People and our Planet,” a new experience is beginning to take shape. Together with international zoological consultants CLR Design, Schmidt Associates is excited to play a major role in its development.

The design team reviews a map of the new Kentucky Trails site.

Introducing Kentucky Trails
Design is underway for the new $30M Kentucky Trails exhibit that builds upon a decades-long legacy that will be the eighth joint project between Schmidt Associates, CLR Design, and Louisville Zoo.

“It’s been an honor and privilege working with the Louisville Zoo and the CLR team to share ongoing stories of conservation while educating the next generation in entertaining and memorable ways,” said Architectural Zoo Consultant Arne Judd, who will bring his insight and experience to the exhibit’s planning and construction process. “Helping to write a new chapter in the Zoo’s history through sustainable design, ecology, and the built environment is sure to get more young people interested in making differences in the world around them.”

The Louisville Zoo team reviews the site design during a workshop.

Exhibit Details
As the official state zoo of Kentucky, the Louisville Zoo will display the state’s wildlife, culture, and natural history through Kentucky Trails. The project is planned for 20 acres of undeveloped land adjacent to Snow Leopard Pass and Glacier Run. It will provide a highly interactive, up-close experience with native Kentucky wildlife, an off-road vehicular tour, a paddle boat ride, wildlife theater, and a new restaurant and event venue. The new Kentuckiana Conservation Center will also provide an educational opportunity with space for a classroom, small animal exhibits, and a lab environment. Other project features include covered animal viewing shelters, a gift shop, and a cold storage building. While exact details are still being determined, the team is committed to leading the design process through innovation and achievable, sound solutions.

The design team convenes at the Louisville Zoo to kick off planning for Kentucky Trails.


The project team is introduced to a 57-day-old Fairy Penguin.

“It’s wonderful getting to continue carrying the momentum forward, said Principal-in-Charge John Robertson, Jr., AIA, ACHE. “Working with the Louisville Zoo for the past 30 years has been a truly amazing experience, and now designing something specific to Kentucky’s linage while sharing a story of sustainability is a real full circle moment.”

The team
To design Kentucky Trails, we have assembled a team of outstanding consultants from Louisville who have a deep understanding of the zoo. Consultants include: Sabak, Wilson & Lingo, RAI, Shrout Tate Wilson Consulting Engineers, ClasSickle, Amy Wilson Eley, Karen Abney Art & Design, Biohabits, and Booker Design Collaborative. Staffing the project for Schmidt Associates will be Project Architect J.M. Chovan, Sustainability Architect Veena Reddy, AIA, LEED AP, WELL AP,  and Interior Designer Amber McKinney, who along with Judd, Robertson, and myself, make a dynamic team.

Louisville Zoo Executive Director Dan Maloney leads the design team on a site walk while sharing his vision for Kentucky Trails.

Important dates
With the design process underway, construction is set to begin in 2024, and an animal move-in and grand opening is slated for 2026. Follow along as we work together to bring Kentucky Trails to life for residents of our state and visitors from around the world.


*Dan Billings is a Project Manager | Associate for Schmidt Associates