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New Big Cat Exhibit & Aerial Obstacle Course Coming to Turtle Back Zoo

A rendering of the new project.
Diane Lilli

If you want to hear the roar of a tiger - or a lion - you may want to plan your trip to Turtle Back Zoo. Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, Jr. announced the next revenue enhancing project for Turtle Back Zoo - a Big Cat Country Exhibit and an Aerial Obstacle Course.

This newest addition to the Turtle Back Zoo promises to continue to add not only to the popular 'go-to destination' aura of the facility, but also should bring in even more profits.

These dynamic and unique attractions will push the envelope even further for the zoo, since kids will surely beg their parents to take them to the Turtle Back Zoo to fly through the air on a zip line, or to walk inside caves in order to get a unique view of the big cats. And, along the way, children - and adults - will learn about the big cats amid a Southwest United States theme. Cougars and Jaguars will have rock outcroppings, a waterfall and indigenous Southwest plantings.

Visitors will tour an area that resembles a southwest mine or cave, and stamped pathways will resemble a southwest trail.

But the project that is expected to truly soar is the Aerial Obstacle Course, which will be built next to the endangered animals' Carousel.

This aerial course will include a 25-station course, and will hang 8 feet about the ground. Participants will have to climb over rope bridges, ride zip lines, and traverse zig zag boards and logs.

Since this is geared towards older children and adults, there will be a separate entrance, so that it will remain open after zoo hours.

This new exhibit will be just behind the Wild New Jersey Exhibit and the Essex Farm Petting Zoo. The design was furnished by French and Parrello, who received $138,897. Shauger Property Services of East Orange won the competitive bid for their project, for $3,056,808.

DiVincenzo detailed how profitable all the new exhibits have been for the Turtle Back Zoo. He also stressed that money from proceeds raised at the zoo will go back into the zoo budget.

"The Safari golf course, in 60 days, took in $80,000." said DiVincenzo. "This year the minimum (for the season) should be about $200,000. The carousal brings in $275,000 per year. The bird aviary brings in over $110,000; the pony trail which was moved and improved $75,000. The zip line is expected to bring in $250,000."

Construction is being done via the Essex County Capital Budget, along with a grant from the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund.

DiVincenzo told a crowd gathered at the zoo on Thursday that he

is excited to bring another revenue enhancing activity to the Turtle Back Zoo, which was voted the number 1 zoo in New Jersey.

This project is expected to be completed in stages, with the Aerial course expected to be completed by summer 2011 and the Big Cat Country by fall 2011.


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