FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Anthony Puglisi April 5, 2010 973-621- 2542 Lauren Shears 973-621-1590 ESSEX COUNTY EXECUTIVE ANNOUNCES THREE ESSEX COUNTY SITES ARE NAMED TO NEW JERSEY MONTHLY MAGAZINE’S BEST OF 2010 PLACES Essex County Turtle Back Zoo and Essex County South Mountain Reservation are among Top Recreation Destinations Historic Essex County Courthouse Recognized as an Important Architectural Project Essex County, NJ – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced that Essex County South Mountain Reservation and Essex County Turtle Back Zoo were among the sites included in New Jersey Monthly magazine’s “Best of 2010: Recreation” sites and the restoration of the Historic Essex County Courthouse was included among the most important architectural projects of the past decade. The magazine gathered input from its readers to identify the State’s top recreation facilities and relied on a panel of construction professionals to determine the most important architectural projects. “Having two of our recreation facilities included among the magazine’s list of best recreation sites in New Jersey and our Historic Courthouse included among the top 10 most important construction projects is a prestigious honor. We appreciate readers of New Jersey Monthly magazine taking notice of the efforts we have made to transform and preserve our park facilities and infrastructure,” DiVincenzo said. Essex County Turtle Back Zoo Essex County Turtle Back Zoo was cited as the best zoo in New Jersey. The passage from New Jersey Monthly magazine mentions the numerous upgrades made at the zoo in recent years, including including the addition of an animal hospital, a reptile center, an educational center, a picnic pavilion and an animal-themed playground and carousel. It also shares a comment from Marianne Barreiro of Maplewood, who states: “I saw the zoo almost close its doors many times, but it is now better than ever. At 48, I am still a member, and my kids love it too.” The Zoo is located at 560 Northfield Avenue in West Orange and is open seven days a week. Hours of operation are Monday to Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Admission is $6 for children and senior citizens, $9 for adults and free for children under 2. For additional information, please call 973-731-5800 or visit www.essexcountynj.org. In September 2006, Essex County Turtle Back Zoo received accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and is among only 217 facilities worldwide that are accredited. Earning accreditation is a clear indication that an institution is committed to the highest standards in animal care, ethics, conservation and education. In addition, new attendance records have been set in each of the last four years, including in 2009 when an all-time record 450,000 visitors came to the Zoo. Since taking office in 2003, DiVincenzo has spearheaded over $20 million in upgrades to Essex County Turtle Back Zoo, which have included developing the Carousel, which features 33 figures of endangered animals; building the Australian Exhibit that features kangaroos, wallabies, emus and over 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 and South American Animal Exhibit; renovating the Pepsi Pavilion for year-round use and making upgrades to the entrance as well as fencing and infrastructure to meet AZA requirements. Funding has been provided through Green Acres grants, existing capital improvement bonds, or donations from the Zoological Society, Essex County Parks Foundation, corporations or private foundations. Private support has been provided by Prudential Financial, Inc., Wachovia Bank (Wells Fargo), PNC Bank, PSE&G, Verizon, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, Pepsi Bottling Company, Capital One Bank, TD Bank, the Amelior Foundation, Aramark and OxyMagic carpet cleaning. Essex County South Mountain Reservation Essex County South Mountain Reservation was recognized for having the best hiking trails. It has 19 miles of hiking and walking trails, 27 miles of carriage roads, the popular South Mountain Dog Park, picnic areas, several scenic overlooks and magnificent views of New York City. The award also notes the historic significance of Washington Rock, which is where General George Washington watched the movement of British troops during the Revolutionary War. Essex County and the South Mountain Conservancy recently completed an innovative project in which 50,000 native plant species were planted in the reservation. To protect the new plantings, 42 new enclosures – ranging in size from 5,000 square feet to 14 acres – were created throughout South Mountain Reservation. These regeneration sites cover approximately 24 acres and were planted with about 50,000 native plant species. The enclosures are designed to prevent deer and other large animals from foraging on the newly planted areas, and allow smaller animals, such as rodents and birds, to enter and exit. As the plant life grows, it will provide the seeds to help regenerate the forest understory in the Reservation. In 2009, Essex County partnered with the Township of West Orange, The Land Conservancy of New Jersey, South Mountain Conservancy and the NJ Green Acres program to preserve 11 acres of open space in the Mayapple Hill section of the reservation. In 2008, Essex County and the Township of West Orange partnered to increase the size of South Mountain Reservation by preserving 52 acres of open space adjacent to the County property. In 2006, Essex County and the South Mountain Conservancy developed a Master Plan that provides a comprehensive overview of South Mountain Reservation and recommends a series of upgrades be made to maintain and revitalize the area. The 2-acre South Mountain Dog Park was opened in July 2006 and has become a popular attraction on Crest Drive. In 2005, a series of improvements were made to repair hiking trails, address erosion problems and improve access to the reservation. These projects were funded with grants from the NJ Green Acres program and the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund. Historic Essex County Courthouse The Courthouse, which was designed by Cass Gilbert in 1906, was described by the magazine as “one of the most significant public buildings in the State.” The Courthouse renovation project, 14 years long, was barely off the ground with just 5 percent of the work finished when DiVincenzo took office as the Essex County Executive in January 2003. DiVincenzo restored oversight to the project and established an expedited timetable to reopen the building. He held weekly meetings with the contractors to keep the lines of communication open, resolve disputes and avoid any delays – and what had not been completed in 14 years was accomplished in just 24 months. On December 29, 2004, DiVincenzo presided over a ceremony to celebrate the completion of the $49 million renovation project to restore the luster and beauty to the Historic Courthouse. “This is an excellent example of preserving our culture and heritage,” Architect Jason Kliwinski said in New Jersey Monthly. “The restoration preserved a building that has quite a presence – it has cultural and historical relevance. This project demonstrates the sustainable side of restoration,” he noted. For more information about the New Jersey Monthly Best of 2010: Recreation, visit www.njmonthly.com.