WEST ORANGE, NJ — Turtle Back Junction is now more handicap accessible, and the miniature train ride at Turtle Back Zoo has a new corporate sponsor.

Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, Jr. announced a long-term partnership agreement with Investors Bank to become the official sponsor of the miniature train ride at the zoo on Wednesday. Improvements also have been completed to make the train station more handicap accessible.

 “I am so pleased to join with Kevin Cummings and Investors Bank to announce another great partnership at Turtle Back Zoo. Investors first became part of our Zoo family when they sponsored our Prehistoric Playground. Supporting the train will be an extension of their commitment to Turtle Back and a continuing example of their commitment to the community. I want to thank Kevin for his friendship and support,” DiVincenzo said. “The miniature train has been our most popular attractions and the improvements we made will make it more accessible so everyone can enjoy it,” he added.

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 “Turtle Back Zoo is something we all can be proud of, and the train ride is a fantastic attraction for families. Under Joe’s leadership, the zoo has become a special place and real jewel for New Jersey. Frist and foremost, Investors is a community bank and, now more than ever, we are committed to partnering with our communities to pull us through these difficult times,” said Cummings,  Investors Bank chairman and chief executive officer.

 “Investors Bank has been a great partner with Essex County on projects such as this but also in other areas of our community. I also commend our County Executive for another successful project and congratulate him on his vision for the zoo,” Essex County Freeholder President Brendan Gill said. 

“The train ride is probably our most popular attraction and I want to thank Joe DiVincenzo for enhancing access so all families can enjoy it. I also want to thank Kevin Cummings and Investors Bank. This is just another example of how they are helping the Zoo and giving back to the community,” Zoological Society of New Jersey Executive Director Adam Kerins said. 

The entrance pathway to Turtle Back Junction was transformed into an entry plaza to make the train station platform more accessible. The open area makes the area more handicap accessible and easier to navigate for adults pushing strollers. A trellis was constructed to provide shade.

The Essex County Department of Public Works designed the improvements to the train station and monitored the project to ensure delays were avoided. Tsivicos Enterprises from Neptune was awarded a publicly-bid contract for $811,000 to perform the construction work. Funding was provided through the Capital Budget and a grant from the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund. Work started in February and was completed in three months.

Turtle Back Zoo is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. To promote social distancing, tickets must be purchased in advance at https://turtlebackzoo.com/admission-hours/. For more information, visit www.essexcountynj.org/turtlebackzoo or call (973)731-5800.

The miniature train ride remained relatively unchanged since the zoo opened in 1963 until last year when the route of the tracks was realigned to accommodate a third on-site parking deck and a new train maintenance building. The new building provides a more efficient environment to work on the train engines and cars when they need to be repaired or require routine maintenance. A below-ground mechanics well allows employees to work underneath the train with the engine being lifted or removed and transported to another site. This feature reduces the amount of time it takes to repair an engine and keep the trains running on schedule.

 

(Photo: Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. (in front, fifth from left) watches as Investors Bank Chairman and CEO Kevin Cummings cuts a ceremonial ribbon in front of the Turtle Back Junction train station sponsored by Investors Bank at Essex County Turtle Back Zoo on Wednesday, July 29. With them are (in front from left) Turtle Back Zoo employee Jaime D’Onofrio, Chief of Staff Phil Alagia, Freeholder President Brendan Gill, Deputy Parks Director Kate Hartwyk, Mike Piga from French and Parello and Harry Tsivicos from Tsivicos Enterprises.)