West Orange, NJ – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced the opening of a new 500-car parking garage at the Essex County South Mountain Recreation Complex in West Orange on Friday, March 27th. The facility will provide additional on-site parking for visitors coming to the many attractions in the complex and alleviate the amount of cars that are parking in neighboring lots, in the nearby Essex County South Mountain Reservation and on the street.

“With Turtle Back Zoo as our anchor and new attractions like the paddle boating, 1.7-mile walking path, picnic pavilion and playground at the Orange Reservoir, our Essex County South Mountain Recreation Complex has become a regional destination. The existing on-site parking is no longer able to accommodate the number of people who visit,” DiVincenzo said. “The new 500-space garage will provide more easily-accessible and safe parking, alleviate the burden being placed on existing parking locations and make our visitors’ experience more enjoyable,” he added.

“The new parking deck is another wonderful project that has been added to the Essex County South Mountain Recreation Complex to meet the needs of our visitors. This complex is the pride of Essex County and we are blessed to have it located in the Township of West Orange,” said West Orange Mayor Robert D. Parisi. “We have a wonderful facility here that the County Executive has done a tremendous amount of improvements to that make this the best facility in New Jersey,” he added.

The new five-story facility can accommodate approximately 500 cars and is located in the surface parking lot between Turtle Back Zoo and Codey Arena. There is stairwell and elevator access close to the Zoo and Arena for visitors who park in the new garage. To enhance traffic control on Northfield Avenue, a traffic signal has been installed at the western end of Codey Arena.

The popularity of the attractions at the Essex County South Mountain Recreation Complex has outpaced its parking needs. Turtle Back Zoo welcomed an all-time record 688,359 visitors in 2014. Codey Arena had about 400,000 in attendance in 2014. The Treetop Adventure Course welcomed 39,811 thrill seekers. The miniGOLF Safari recorded 37,612 rounds in 2014. In its first full season, the paddle boating on the Orange Reservoir saw 13,450 people take to the water. In addition, McLoone’s Boathouse Restaurant, the new walkway around the Orange Reservoir and the Regatta Children’s Playground also have been magnets for people attracted to the complex.

As the attractions in the South Mountain Recreation Complex have become more popular, available parking has become insufficient. Parking opportunities in the complex include the Park N Ride facility that opened in 2004 that has 477 spaces, the surface parking lot by the miniGOLF Safari and McLoone’s Boathouse Restaurant that has about 300 spaces and the Oakdale Parking Lot located across the street from the Clipper Picnic Pavilion and Paddle Boat Dock that has about 50 spaces. When the number of visitors at the complex soars, cars are directed to park in nearby business parking lots, on the grass archery field off of Cherry Lane in South Mountain Reservation and on local streets around the zoo.

Greg Comito and Associates from Newark were awarded a $388,000 contract to design the parking facility. Terminal Construction from Wood-Ridge, NJ, was awarded a publicly bid contract for $11,642,000 to construct the parking facility. The Essex County Department of Public Works monitored the project and answered questions to ensure delays were avoided. The project was funded through the Essex County Capital Budget. Work started in July and took about nine months to complete.

Essex County South Mountain Recreation Complex

Named after South Mountain Reservation, the land upon which it sits, South Mountain Recreation Complex is home to Turtle Back Zoo, miniGOLF Safari, Treetop Adventure Course, McLoone’s Boathouse Restaurant, the Clipper Picnic Pavilion and Paddle Boat Dock at the Orange Reservoir, the 1.7-mile walkway around the Orange Reservoir and Codey Arena. Currently under construction is a nautical-themed playground adjacent to the Clipper Pavilion.

The Essex County Park System was created in 1895 and is the first county park system established in the United States. The Park System consists of more than 6,000 acres and has 22 parks, five reservations, an environmental center, a zoo, Treetop Adventure Course, ice skating rink, roller skating rink, three public golf courses, golf driving range, two miniature golf courses, three off-leash dog facilities, a castle and the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens.

Contact:  Anthony Puglisi
Lauren Shears