Community Life

Prehistoric Playground, Sponsored by Investors Bank, Opens at Turtle Back Zoo

July 31, 2013 at 10:02 PM

WEST ORANGE, NJ - Ahead of its expected Fall 2013 scheduled completion date, the newest addition to Turtle Back Zoo opened Wednesday, July 31, to the apparent delight of all of the children who were present for the ribbon cutting. The Prehistoric Playground would not have happened without the generous support from Investors Bank, headquartered in Short Hills. Bank President and CEO Kevin Cummings was on hand for the grand opening, along with Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. who gathered alongside several freeholders and zoo officials.

From left: Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr., the Turtle Back Zoo Acting Director Brint Spencer, and Investors Bank President and CEO Kevin Cummings 
Credit: Carolyne Volpe Curley

“One of the Bank’s core missions is to form alliances, especially with the public and non-profit sectors, to make ‘social investments,’ and together we can make positive differences in the communities we serve.” Cummings said when addressing the crowd gathered. “We also want to recognize the County Executive’s leadership in transforming the Turtle Back Zoo and making the facility, with all its new attractions, the best zoo in New Jersey.”

Investor's Bank CEO Kevin Cummings Welcomes Visitors to Turtle Back
Zoo's Prehistoric Playground
Credit: Carolyne Volpe Curley  

DiVincenzo added, “Throughout my tenure as County Executive, we have reached out to our corporate neighbors to support new exhibits and additions at the Zoo. Investors Bank and Investors Foundation understood the value of the new playground and their generous gift made it possible.

Prehistoric Playground
To get into the playground area, visitors follow a winding boardwalk path and then enter beneath a pterodactyl sign bearing the Investors Bank name. The Prehistoric Playground is located on the higher level of the zoo, right next to the barn and petting zoo area. 

Credit: Carolyne Volpe Curley

The playground, geared towards kids aged two to twelve, features several different custom dinosaur-themed pieces of equipment for children to walk through, slide down, climb up and crawl under.

Credit: Carolyne Volpe Curley

Adorned with with images of dinosaurs and animals from different primeval periods, the “Tree of Prehistoric Life” is designed for older children who will certainly enjoy its rock climbing wall, walkthrough and choice of slides.

Credit: Carolyne Volpe Curley

There's a smaller slide and climbing unit as well and throughout the playground, the ground area has a rubbery surface in case of falls.

Credit: Carolyne Volpe Curley

The unique saber-toothed tiger will provide children endless hours of climbing pleasure. 

Credit: Carolyne Volpe Curley

Fossil Dig
A sheltered area, alongside the playground, has been designed as an archeological dig for junior paleontologists, including those with disabilities, to search through stones to find a T-rex skeleton and fossils. Without any coaching today, the kids set to work unearthing the simulated bones beneath the surface.

Credit: Carolyne Volpe Curley

The dig area also includes a teaching center, complete with blackboard, for educational programs.

Credit: Carolyne Volpe Curley

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Contractual Agreements 
The contract for $64,990 to design the playground went to Suburban Consulting Engineers, Inc. from Mount Arlington. The builders were Shauger Property Services from East Orange who built the playground for $878,298. Besides the substantial donation of $125,000 from Investors Bank and $125,000 from Investors Foundation, the project was also funded with grants from NJ Green Acres, the Zoological Society of New Jersey and the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund. Essex County’s Department of Public Works monitored the project which began in April 2013 and was completed in just three months.

“The playground is another example of how we are introducing recreation activities at Turtle Back Zoo that promote its mission of conservation and animal awareness. The Prehistoric Playground gives our young visitors the opportunity to play and climb while raising their interest in prehistoric animals,” DiVincenzo said. “Our new playground is an excellent example of how public and private organizations can form alliances to produce remarkable results for everyone. We want to recognize the vision and generous funding by Investors Bank and the Investors Foundation, both of which helped us create an outdoor play area for fun and learning.”

From left: From Little Learners Academy in Randolph Nadia Jabbar, Marcus Puason, Andrew Gamella and Kevin Cummings  Credit: Bob Rinklin

Association of Zoos and Aquariums Accreditation
Turtle Back Zoo is among only 221 facilities worldwide that are accredited with the approval of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The accreditation is awarded as a clear indication that an institution is committed to the highest standards in animal care, ethics, conservation and education. 

Since taking office in 2003, DiVincenzo has spearheaded over $70 million in upgrades to Essex County Turtle Back Zoo. Over the past ten years, new exhibits and improvements to the zoo have included:
  • Carousel with 33 figures of endangered animals 
  • Sea Lion Sound Exhibit with sea lions, sharks and stingrays 
  • Big Cat Country Exhibit with jaguars and cougars 
  • Tam-ring Gibbons Reserve with gibbons apes, reeves muntjac and white naped cranes 
  • Australian Exhibit that features kangaroos, wallabies, along with 500 birds in the Aviary 
  • Reptile and Education Center  
  • Open air dining pavilion and playground  
  • Penguin Exhibit  
  • Otter Exhibit   
  • Wolf Exhibit  
  • Alligator Exhibit  
  • North American Animal Exhibit  
  • Black Bear Exhibit  
  • Animal Hospital   
  • Essex Farm Petting Zoo  
  • South American Animal Exhibit 
Zoo Hours
Turtle Back Zoo opening hours are:
  • Monday, Tuesday
    10am to 4:30pm
  • Wednesday during Summer
    10am to 8pm
  • Thursday, Friday, Saturday
    10am to 4:30pm

  • Sunday
    11am to 5:30pm  

Investors Bank has branch locations throughout New Jersey and New York. A list of bank addresses is available online here.

For recent Turtle Back Zoo improvements and awards, see TAP's articles:

For further information:
Investors Bank
101 JFK Parkway
Short Hills, NJ 07078
Facebook: Investors Bank

Investors Bank, headquartered in Short Hills, New Jersey, is a full-service community bank that has been serving customers since 1926. With $13.3 billion in assets and a network of over 100 retail branches, Investors delivers personalized services and products tailored to the needs of its customers. Investors’ consumer banking services include complete deposit products, online banking, home equity loans and lines of credit and a full array of mortgage loans. Serving the business community, Investors provides deposit accounts, cash management services, business loans and lines of credit, and commercial real estate financing solutions to small and middle market companies, professional services firms, municipalities and other businesses. Investors is a member of the FDIC and an Equal Housing Lender.  

Turtle Back Zoo
560 Northfield Avenue
West Orange, New Jersey, 07052
Facebook: Turtle Back Zoo

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