A new education center has opened at the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange. The new building, which is two stories tall and 12,000 square feet, houses four classrooms and exhibit areas. In addition, a new entrance to the zoo was created for visitors coming from the parking garage and groups arriving by bus.
A ceremony and ribbon cutting were held on Tuesday morning. Speakers at the event included Sheriff Armando Fontoura, County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr, Governor Chris Christie, County Freeholders Blonnie Watson and Leonard Luciano, donor Marc Benson, and leaders of the Zoological Society of New Jersey and the Essex County Park Foundation.
Governor Christie mentioned how he visited the zoo often while growing up in nearby Livingston. Christie called the education center "another great resource that Essex County is providing".
"We need more places like this where families interact with each other", Christie said.
"(Gov. Christie)'s been a friend of the people of Essex County", said DiVincenzo. "Today is a great day not only for Essex County, but for the state of New Jersey".
The project, which cost nearly $8 million, was paid for using grants from the Zoological Society of New Jersey and the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund, in addition to a loan from the Essex County Improvement Authority and funds from the Essex County Capital Budget.
Campers from the Turtle Back Zoo Camp attended the ceremony, in addition to dozens of zoo docents and volunteers.
The building was designed by USA Architects, and built by Bismark Construction. Both companies are based in Newark.
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