The following is in response to a message from Essex County Freeholder President Brendan Gill regarding the "groundswell of opposition" (his accurate description) to the continued expansion of the Turtle Back Zoo, expressed by his constituents from Millburn, Maplewood, West Orange, and South Orange. In fact, the South Orange city government is meeting on this very issue Monday, July 22 at 8 PM at SOPAC.
Dear Mr. Mulumba and Freeholder President Gill:
Please do not misconstrue the point of the correctly termed "groundswell of opposition" to the latest plans for Turtle Back expansion. The point is that area residents do not want the expansion, and do not want money and energy expended to that end. So the $600,000 approved to research the feasibility of the project needs to be pulled back. The point is that your Freeholder Board has once again ignored the wishes of the citizenry, and the point is that we therefore cannot trust you to listen to us before finalizing a decision, or have confidence that you will be transparent.
Believe me, we have seen this before, and that is why -- this time -- the opposition will only grow and grow. It will grow at the South Orange Board of Trustees meeting tomorrow night, at the next Township Committee meetings in Millburn and Maplewood, and even more as residents return with the end of summer.
The point is that the flamingoes were too much, the new parking garage was too much, the new bear exhibit / expansion was too much, and the amphitheater is too much. All that is at stake is the ruin of what was once a good thing, what was once a positive relationship with the community, what was once a trust in our Essex County leadership -- and, possibly, the ruin of our precious nature preserve. You and the County Executive need to listen, and to humble your lavish grand designs in the interests of reason, of true need, and of respect for the unspoiled natural world that sustains us.