ST. PAUL  (AP) — Supporters of St. Paul's Como Park Zoo and Conservatory have reached their fundraising goal.

The Campaign for Como recently secured more than $8.5 million in private donations for improvements at the free metro zoo and botanical garden.

The community-led fundraising effort lasted four years. The final gifts were secured in October.

The money will enable Como to break ground on "The Japanese Garden Experience," a new wing to the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory financed entirely by private contributions.

The project will create year-round display space for Como's bonsai collection and improve access to The Como Ordway Memorial Japanese Garden.

Groundbreaking for "The Japanese Garden Experience" is expected to begin early next year. Como Friends began the $18.8 million capital campaign in 2007.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.