County officials say they are still seeking to make a tourist attraction out of a Martinez man's multimillion-dollar mounted exotic animal collection.
Development Authority of Columbia County Executive Director Zack Daffin said Jan. 3 that he is working with the county's Convention and Visitors Bureau to obtain funding for a feasibility study to gauge the prospects of a county-maintained museum to house the mounted animals belonging to Soudy Golabchi.
The collection includes 400 specimens, including sheep, bears and elephant heads and is valued at about $10 million, county officials have said. In November 2004, Golabchi and the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce proposed donating the collection to a county-owned and -operated museum, and county commissioners agreed to explore the possibilities of a public/private partnership to build such a museum for the display.
Daffin said Jan. 3 that tentative plans announced in August 2005 to place the collection in a display attached to the new Academy Sports and Outdoors Ltd. store have since been abandoned.
Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Beda Johnson said it is her job to support existing tourist draws in Columbia County and to cultivate new events and exhibits, and a museum with the Golabchi collection could be a tourist destination.
"It's such a wonderful collection that's already in Columbia County, and it would be smart of us to work together to show it and make it available to the entire public," Johnson said.
She said county leaders showed the collection to a top state tourism official during a recent visit and were advised to seek a feasibility study. She said the state official commented that the collection has the potential to be a first-class attraction.
In addition to potential numbers of visitors, Johnson said, the feasibility study must include the costs associated with building and operating a museum with a sophisticated climate control system to maintain the integrity of the animals.
The animals also require periodic specialized maintenance and care that would cost a "sizeable" amount of money.
"What I'm really interested in is finding out if it is viable to make this a standalone museum," she said.
She said no existing county buildings would be appropriate to house the collection.
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