Used General Motors Fire Hoses Get New Life at Potter Park Zoo

Fire hoses from Flint Metal Center are repurposed as toys for monkeys, tigers and river otters
Jan 25, 2021 11:00 AM ET
Press Release

FLINT, Mich., January 25, 2021 /3BL Media/ – A colony of spider monkeys, an endangered Amur tiger and a family of North American river otters are enjoying a new set of toys and enrichment items thanks to General Motors and the Flint Metal Center.

The Flint Metal Center, which produces sheet metal stampings for the HD Chevrolet, GMC Sierra Crew and Regular Cab trucks, recently donated 1,500 feet of used facility fire hoses to the Potter Park Zoo, located in Lansing. With more than 500 animals in its care, the zoo repurposes the donated hoses as toys, puzzles and other enrichment items for the animals.

Monica Walker, GM environmental engineer at Flint Metal Center, said the National Fire Protection Association requires the replacement of fire hoses every five years, if the hoses have not been flushed with water.

“I recently found a flier from our first donation to the zoo, and I realized that it had been exactly five years since then," Walker said. "It was time for new hoses and another delivery.”

The donation was part of an ongoing relationship between the plant and the zoo. In November 2015, Flint Metal Center millwright Neil MacFadden, now retired, had a conversation with his daughter, Annie Marcum, about the need for fire hoses to create animal enrichment items at the Potter Park Zoo, where she worked. Their conversation sparked the partnership that now provides numerous benefits for the animals as well as a sustainable way to recycle plant materials. 

The hoses are used in the exhibits throughout the zoo to create food toys for the otter tank and to build rope swings, vines and puzzle feeders for the zoo’s family of spider monkeys.

“The fire hose we get from Flint is the perfect size for us. We often braid the fire hoses into different shapes and tuck food inside for the animals to pull out,” said Marcum, lead zookeeper of the zoo’s carnivore and primate area.

She emphasized the importance of enrichment items for the animals in her care.

“Enrichment is so vital because it gives animals a way to express natural behaviors and feel more satisfied with their environment,” Marcum said. “It also gets the animals up and moving and gives the zookeepers a way to educate guests about an exhibit.”

Flint Metal Center plans to continue its partnership with the zoo to reuse plant fire hoses after every five-year hose replacement, helping the plant eliminate a source of waste. Walker said employees consistently pursue innovative ways to increase sustainability at the plant as GM moves toward a future with zero waste.

Media Contacts 

Erin Davis

GM Communications


Kevin Nadrowski

GM Communications