$8 Million Amphitheater vs Open Space
Jul 22, 2019 —
The public was alerted to the Essex County Turtle Back Zoo proposed $8 million animal amphitheater only when we heard on News 12 New Jersey that Governor Murphy withheld $4 million from the project.
On July 8, 2019, thirteen West Orange and Millburn residents appeared at the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund Advisory Board meeting which was held at 5:00 PM to avoid public scrutiny.
The advisory board consisted primarily of Essex County employees or their families. The public was not allowed to comment until after they voted, “Yes” to $600K in architectural fees for the $8 million amphitheater!
What is the purpose of the amphitheater?
Essex County claims it is for educational purposes. However, the facts reveal that it is for entertainment. The amphitheater is to have theatrical music and lighting, special effects, multiple stages, a life support system and several large water tanks where animals will entertain 300 to 1000 visitors.
The show must go on!
On July 10, 2019, in a packed Essex County Freeholder’s meeting, in Newark, New Jersey, for two hours people spoke out against the amphitheater. The Essex County Parks Director, Dan Salvante and Freeholder Leonard Luciano countered with the mantra that the amphitheater is for the noble goal of educating children.
But one Millburn resident pointed out, “Children learn in small groups not in large amphitheaters. The Zoo already has an amphitheater, an education building and a sea lion show." This new one is inhumane, redundant and expensive.
Beneath the noble talk of education, there is patronage!
At the hearing, one resident informed the crowd that the architects, “French and Parrello had given the Essex County Executive a campaign contribution of $5000.” This was left off of the application, despite the requirement to inform the public.
The Mayor of Montclair urged the Freeholders to vote, “YES!”
With the encouragement of Robert Jackson, the Mayor of Montclair who also serves as the Essex County Administrator, the Freeholders voted 7 to 1 to award a $600,000 contract to design the amphitheater that residents and the West Orange Public Advocate vigorously oppose.
Turtle Back Zoo, too much, too far.
Residents wish to stop any further Zoo development and its impact on West Orange, Millburn, South Orange and Maplewood.
Traffic paralyzed in West Orange!
On April 23, 2019 traffic was paralyzed in West Orange neighborhoods in the vicinity of the zoo! The following email was sent to parents:
Subject: School Buses will be delayed - Tuesday afternoon 4/23
Due to heavy traffic on Northfield Ave. and Pleasant Valley Way near West Orange Zoo, many school buses are going to be delayed this afternoon. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
West Orange School District Transportation.
Use the funds for OPEN SPACE acquisition and climate change remediation!
While our community Open Space Commissions struggle to make acquisitions, Essex County is on a spending spree commanding $24 million in 2019 alone for archaic animal entertainment in the form of a $16 million grizzly bear exhibit and $8 million for an entertainment amphitheater.
It is an inappropriate, irresponsible project at a time when we need to purchase open space and protect ourselves from climate change.
South Mountain Reservation is flooding!
The Zoo staff need only look out of their castle’s windows to see that the South Mountain Reservation which serves as an ecological sponge, is flooding.
Please join our growing movement of those who demand no further development of the zoo entertainment complex.
Redirect the Open Space Recreation and Trust Fund resources to acquiring and maintaining our most valuable ecological treasures, land in Essex County, the third most crowded county in New Jersey.
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