WEST ORANGE, NJ - A new 500-car parking garage is coming to South Mountain Recreation Complex. On Tuesday, July 22, Essex County broke ground for the new parking facility, which is expected to be completed by the spring of 2015.
The five-story parking garage will accommodate approximately 500 cars and be located in the surface parking lot between Turtle Back Zoo and Codey Arena. There will be stairwell and elevator access close to the zoo and Arena for visitors who park in the new garage. A traffic signal will be installed at the western end of Codey Arena.
With the increasingly popularity of South Mountain Recreation Complex, which features Turtle Back Zoo, miniGolf Safari, Treetop Adventure, McLoone's Boathouse restaurant, the Walkway, and the Paddle Boat Pavilion, available parking has become insufficient. The Turtle Back Zoo surface lot holds approximately 400 cars; the Park 'n' Ride facility that opened in 2004 has 477 spaces; the mini-golf Safari and McLoone's has about 300 spaces; and the Oakdale Parking lot across from the Paddle Boat Pavilion has about 50 spaces.
According to publicist Anthony Puglisi, Greg Comito and Associates from Newark were awarded a $388,000 contract to design the parking facility. Terminal Construction from Wood-Ridge was awarded a publicly bid contract for $11,642,000 to construct the parking facility.
“With Turtle Back Zoo as our anchor and new attractions like the paddle boating and 1.7-mile walking path at the Orange Reservoir, our Essex County South Mountain Recreation Complex has become a regional destination for people seeking leisure, recreation and educational activities. This popularity has outpaced the amount of available on-site parking,” Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo said. “The construction of this 500-space facility will enhance our visitors’ experience, provide more accessible parking and alleviate the burden being placed on our reservation and the surrounding neighborhoods where our visitors are parking.”
In addressing the construction phase of the project, DiVincenzo noted, “Building this parking structure is a massive undertaking that will create disruptions and worsen a parking situation that is already bad. We ask for the public’s understanding and patience while we work to improve our parking accommodations.”
“This is another quality of life facility that will make residents and visitors who come here happy,” West Orange Councilman Jerry Guarino said. “We are grateful to the County Executive for the amount of development he has made here at the complex because it is in our hometown of West Orange and helps us with the development of our retail base,” he added.
Essex County Turtle Back Zoo Director Brint Spencer informed attendees that Zoo attendance is already up 43,000 from last year's numbers and July is up by 65 per cent.