The Spirit of Interdependence in Strategic Planning

Northwest Trek Wildlife Park


Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium and Northwest Trek Wildlife Park (ZEED) desired to create a new five-year strategic plan roadmap for both facilities: disparate parks separated by 40 miles, yet unified under the same zoo and educational department for the city of Tacoma, WA. Both parks were well-positioned and desired to build upon their previous successes and re-emerge as a powerful player in the Puget Sound conservation community.


Alan Varsik, Director of both facilities, partnered with Canopy Strategic Partners based on our strong reputation guiding more than 150 cultural attractions, zoos, museums, and botanical gardens through the strategic planning process. Mr. Varsik wanted to achieve the goals of 1) positioning ZEED as a destination and valued community asset, 2) thinking boldly about the modern zoo facility, and 3) engaging the staff, Board, stakeholders, and community members throughout the process through a spirit of interdependence.

The project commenced just before the Covid pandemic, forcing all parties to incorporate even greater flexibility and a sense of innovation into a now virtual planning process. Though each park had its own culture and location, Canopy engaged both through six virtual and onsite workshops plus planning meetings held at both facilities. Conversations centered on interdependence – the harmonious and mutually beneficial co-existence of people and wildlife, within ecosystems, and between the ZEED facilities. This theme helped identify four core strategic areas of One Team, Community, Environment Footprint, and Wild Life Sustainability, each representing a diverse range of areas wherein each person and department within ZEED can have an impact.


This spirit of interdependence permeates the first strategic plan representing both ZEED facilities, guiding the next five years of development working toward common goals through opportunities that encourage audiences to understand the myriad ways in which they are connected to animals, plants, and natural landscapes. ZEED staff’s pride in their work is reflected in this plan, as is the optimism and confidence they have in their ability to positively impact the world and the Pacific Northwest. Both aspirational and grounded in ZEED’s strengths, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium and Northwest Trek Wildlife Park have laid a promising foundation for their future, one that is more collaborative, integrated, and inclusive than ever.

“We entered our planning with the desire to craft our evolution. Canopy provided us the ability, and pathway to develop a strategic plan that reflects the change we desire and provides for our continued cultural relevance.”
–Alan Varsik, Director

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