IT is now a quarter-century since the official opening of one of the biggest visitor attractions in South Cumbria.

The Mail, on Saturday, May 28 in 1994, noted: “The South Lakes Wild Animal Park in Dalton was officially opened yesterday by Furness and Cartmel tourism boss Tim Rogers and a 12-month-old emu.

“The nervous bird called Fourex flanked an equally nervous Mr Rogers as he gingerly cut the celebratory ribbon and declared the park open.

“Around 60 people attended the event which heralds a new age for local tourism.

“Park owners David and Alison Gill watched as local dignitaries and workers were led around the park.”

Mr Gill said: “This is the culmination of a couple of years’ work for us – and I’m afraid it hasn’t stopped yet.

“I am looking forward to letting the first people in because I know it’s going to be a big success.”

Mr Rogers said: “I knew the idea would get off the ground because of David’s ability and enthusiasm.

“This is another quality attraction for the area.”

A visit to the park 25 years ago cost £1.80 for children, £2.75 for adults and £8 for a family of four.

News that Dalton was to get a new tourist attraction came from The Mail on August 9 in 1993 when plans were unveiled for a site overlooking the A590.

The article noted: “Mr David Gill, of Romney Park, has a private collection in his back garden.

“Now he wants to expand it to a 10-acre site open to the public north of the Dalton bypass.”

Mr Gill said: “It would be a fantastic tourist attraction.”

The article noted: “The zoological garden would include 20 species of mammals and 60 to 80 varieties of bird.

“There would be wallabies, racoons, deer, emus, pheasant and waterfowl.

“After searching for several years he found a site on pasture land by Broughton Road.

“Mr Gill plans to include a café, car park, wildfowl lake, woods, ponds and paddocks.”

He said: “It’s going to be a wild animal park.

“Most of my animals have been rescued from zoos that have closed down.

“The collection has built up and we have to expand.”