Call Gov Phil Murphy @ (609) 292-6000: "NO Essex County Zoo Funding!"

Essex County, NJ

Opposing further expansion of the Turtle Back Zoo into South Mountain Reservation by Essex County, at an estimated cost to taxpayers of at least $10.7-million dollars, while destroying yet more forested land.

"In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.” -John Muir, Poet Laureate of the High Sierra  

'Let's destroy more forest, and increase zoo attendance from 900,000 visitors to 1.2 million.' -Joseph DiVincenzo, County Executive


Help us WIN - we need your support!

Asking for money is no fun.  The fact is, hiring professionals to help educate our elected &  appointed officials is expensive.  Legal professionals, environmental consultants, all takes moolah.

Your contribution is tax deductible, thanks to our Coalition partner Our Green West Orange.  We need you to click the donate button below so we can educate the county on what TRUE conservation education looks like!   - Thank You!

People Ask, "What can we do to save the Reservation?"

The Latest Article: The Turtle Back Zoo wants to get bigger. These teens are fighting it. By Jenna Wise

Rally to Save the Rez!

Our FIRST rally with over 350 attendees!  

Click the photo to read the article by Jenna Wise


Freeholder States Env. Impact Study will be done AFTER the project is done

On February 4, 2020, Freeholder Leonard Luciano explained to the Millburn Town Committee that Essex County will complete an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) after the amphitheater project is complete. According to NJ State Executive Order #215, that would be illegal. 

[See 3-min video HERE.]

[View Executive Order HERE]

image35 Article, Feb 22, 2020

Residents through Essex County have been contacting their local papers and online news sites.  This opinion piece "Don’t fall for Essex County’s greenwash of habitat destruction at Turtle Back Zoo,"  is written by Coalition SMR's very own Joyce Rudin.  

Be sure to write your local editors, too!

Essex County Towns Unite to say, "Big enough!"


South Orange

West Orange


February 11, 2020 the Millburn Environmental Commission passed a strong resolution to halt the county's amphitheater project based on detrimental environmental impacts.  

West Orange

South Orange

West Orange


Sept 10, 2019 the West Orange Township Council presents resolution calling on Essex Board of Chosen Freeholders to HALT expansion of the South Mountain Recreation Complex. County must provide a traffic study, environmental impact study, &

adhere to all DEP, soil conservation & other environmental protection & erosion guidelines.

South Orange

South Orange

South Orange


February 27, 2020 the South Orange Environmental Commission unanimously passed a strong resolution against the county's amphitheater project.


And YOUR town???

South Orange


Aug. 6, 2019 the Maplewood Township Committee passed a resolution calling on Essex Board of Chosen Freeholders to HALT expansion of the South Mountain Recreation Complex. (Committeewoman Nancy Adams drafted the town’s resolution with help from the Maplewood Green Team.)  

[Please view resolution in PDF form below]


And YOUR town???

And YOUR town???


March 4, 2020, the Newark Environmental Commission  adopted a resolution similar to that of the Millburn: Enough is enough.  

Details to follow.

And YOUR town???

And YOUR town???

And YOUR town???


Be sure to call on your town's elected & appointed officials and request that they adopt similar resolutions to HALT any expansion into South Mountain Reservation. Your tax dollars. Your environment. Your community. Your voice!  

Find your elected officials HERE.

Coalition Partners unite to say, "Enough is enough!"

SOMA (South Orange Maplewood) Action
The Sierra Club
New Jersey Student Sustainability Coalition
Newark water coalition logo
Our Revolution Essex NJ Logo
350 new jersey rockland logo
Essex Rising logo
Our Green West Orange Logo
Arbor Day Foundation Logo
Montclair High School Young Democratic Socialists
Columbia High School Environmental Club
Columbia High School Students for Social Justice
West Orange Young Democrats
West Orange African Heritage Organization
Coalition for animals logo
NY/NJ Baykeeper: Protect, Preserve, Restore
Friends of Liberty logo

Documents of Interest

County Opens Bids for Faulty Amphitheater

Olmsted Foundation Submits Letter to County

Olmsted Foundation Submits Letter to County

Essex County New Jersey Office of Purchasing Open Bid Amphitheater at Turtle Back Zoo

Despite the county only submitting a draft Master Plan, and not including all townships directly impacted by the proposed project in the planning process, and not conducting an environmental impact study, Essex County opens their million dollar amphitheater project up to bidding under the guise of "Conservation Pavillion."  [PDF below]

Olmsted Foundation Submits Letter to County

Olmsted Foundation Submits Letter to County

Olmsted Foundation Submits Letter to County


Yes, the very same Olmsteds who designed Central Park!  The Olmsted Foundation submits a letter to Essex County to "go slow" and to "include input from concerned citizens and professionals."  They remind us that South Mountain Reservation is part of the first county park system in America. The Olmsteds were ahead of the game when it comes to conservation, and fighting climate change.

Turtle Back Zoo Master Plan DRAFT

Taxpayers Buy $600,000 Amphitheater Plan

Taxpayers Buy $600,000 Amphitheater Plan

Master Plan of Turtle Back Zoo Bird's Eye view

The county provided a Master Plan to West Orange Township Planning Board after months of both residents and township officials requesting the promised plan be made available.  Below is PDF of this plan, for your downloading pleasure, which includes convenient words like, "Conservation" and "Education."

Taxpayers Buy $600,000 Amphitheater Plan

Taxpayers Buy $600,000 Amphitheater Plan

Taxpayers Buy $600,000 Amphitheater Plan

Stack of logs cut, with hands holding wads of money

Lights!   Sound!  Cages!  Tranqulizers!  Kindergarteners are now ready to learn about conservation while seated in groups of 500, in an entertainment Pavillion that was home to 135 mature trees, and home to native species plants and animals.  From here, they can use the planned "rustic toilets"  and head to the gift shoppe to forget about climate change and buy stuff!  [See the Zoo's PDF diagram below]

Citizens File OPRA Requests for Info on Turtle Back Zoo

Filing Open Public Records requests (OPRA) is an important step in understanding the current state of South Mountain Reservation. OPRA records can reveal the impact  that proposed projects can have on climate change.  This information also helps us understand the workings of Essex County so we as residents can be prepared for future projects.  

Below are responses to our OPRA requests, which demonstrate a clear lack of transparency in sharing information regarding public matters.  To file your own Essex County OPRA request, click HERE.

South Mountain Conservancy Submits Letter to County

A sample of some of SMC's recommendations for the County:

  • Suspend any zoo expansion until a comprehensive and independent traffic study, as recommended by the master plan, with the input from West Orange, demonstrates minimal or manageable impact of current usage and planned growth.
  • Provide an estimated cost of the pavilion.
  • Tabulate the costs and benefits to the community from the commercial development in the South Mountain Recreational Complex (present and anticipated).
  • Expand the planned 2:1 replacement of trees in any future development. 
  • Reduce by one-quarter the size of the special event parking in order to reconstruct the natural amphitheater along Cherry Lane north of the Oakdale Parking area.

...while we think that the County’s announcement of public hearings on the master plan is excellent, the process from the start should have included stakeholders, both West Orange and the Conservancy. That was not the case. Too much money and precious land is at stake for this to have been developed in a vacuum.