About Riverbanks

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is home to more than 3,000 magnificent and fascinating animals and one of the nation’s most beautiful and inspiring botanical gardens. The Zoo first opened its gates to the local community on April 25, 1974, and has continued for five decades to provide individuals, families and groups with a common place to connect with and learn about the world’s wildlife and wild places. Today Riverbanks is one of the largest mid-sized zoos in the United States and South Carolina’s leading destination attraction, boasting a national reputation as one of America’s best zoos and drawing over one million visitors annually.

In June 1995 Riverbanks Botanical Garden opened to the public. The extraordinary garden blooms year-round with more than 4,300 species of native and exotic plants and provides a living classroom for gardeners and non-gardeners alike. The formal Walled Garden offers a picture-perfect location for weddings and special events. 2016 brought the opening of Waterfall Junction, a 3-acre interactive children’s garden within the Botanical Garden that inspires exploration, imagination and nature play with tree houses, a dinosaur bone dig, splash zones and plenty of room to roam.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1973, Riverbanks is also the site of structural remains dating back to the early 1800s with South Carolina’s textile industry and the Civil War. Historic ruins can be seen from various locations along the footbridge linking the Zoo and Garden as well as along the naturally wooded River Trail.

Mission, Vision, Values

Our Mission

We create connections and inspire actions that have a lasting impact on wildlife and wild places.

Our Vision

We envision a world where every generation works to ensure that animals and plants thrive locally and globally.

Our Values

Excellence, Caring, Belonging, Growth, Professionalism

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden — Strategic Plan

Executive Biographies

Thomas K. “Tommy” Stringfellow President & CEO

With nearly 30 years of experience in the zoo and attractions industries, Thomas K. Stringfellow is only the third executive to oversee the Zoo in its 43-year-history. He began his career at Riverbanks in 2002 as director of marketing and was promoted to chief operating officer in 2011. Stringfellow was named president and CEO in August of 2017.

Prior to his tenure at Riverbanks, Stringfellow directed sales and marketing for various theme parks across the United States including Six Flags Over Georgia, Six Flags Whitewater Water Park and American Adventures Family Entertainment Center and Six Flags Great Escape and Water Park.

For nearly two decades Stringfellow has been dedicated to ensuring Riverbanks’ continued growth, financial success and leadership in the field of conservation. During his inaugural year as president, Riverbanks was named Best South Carolina Attraction by readers of USA Today. The Zoo also welcomed nearly 1.3 million guests and celebrated numerous births including a giraffe calf, two western lowland gorillas, and five African lion cubs.

An active member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, he has served terms on the Marketing Advisory Committee for AZA and both the Columbia Metropolitan of Conventions and Visitors Bureau and Atlanta Convention and Tourism Board. He is an active member of the community and served on the Board of Directors for Palmetto Health’s Camp Kemo.

Stringfellow is a native South Carolinian and is married with two sons and one daughter.

Jan H. Stamps Chair, Riverbanks Park Commission

Jan H. Stamps, a long-time supporter of Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, has served as a member of the Riverbanks Park Commission since 2006. Prior to joining the Commission, she served two terms as a board member for Riverbanks Society. Over her tenure, Stamps has been involved several times in the rigorous accreditation process by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), the 2014 Destination Riverbanks bond referendum, and the development of Riverbanks’ vision for the future, Bridge to the Wild. In 2017, Stamps aided in the national search for Riverbanks’ new Chief Executive Officer.

Stamps spent years dedicated to the family business, Southern Anesthesia and Surgical, Inc. Stamps is a life-long resident of Cayce-West Columbia and holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of South Carolina.

Learn more about Riverbanks Park Commission.

Deans Richardson Fawcett President, Riverbanks Society Board of Directors

Deans Fawcett was born and raised in Columbia, South Carolina, and graduated from Hammond School and The University of South Carolina. After college, Fawcett moved to Washington, DC, and worked for Congressman Floyd Spence, Senator Strom Thurmond, and the 1988 George Bush Presidential Campaign before returning to Columbia to become an event planner.

Fawcett is an active community volunteer. She is involved in local elections, serves on the board of Hammond School, Riverbanks Zoo Society, Wofford Terrier Club, as well as Camp Cole, an accessible camp and retreat center for children, teens and adults with disabilities, illness and life challenges. Fawcett is also a member of the Junior League of Columbia, a volunteer for Trinity Cathedral, and Magnolia Way Venue.

Fawcett is married to Peter Fawcett, President of Republic National Distributing, mother of six children, and grandmother of three granddaughters. She has always had a love for Riverbanks Zoo and Garden and makes many visits each year.

Learn more about Riverbanks Society.