If you’ve ever taken the kids on the train at Turtle Back Zoo and wondered why you couldn’t get to the lake you could see from the train, wonder no more: Today, Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. and Orange Mayor Dwayne D. Warren inked a plan for the county to lease the Orange Reservoir (yes, that’s what the lake was) and turn it into another recreation outlet at South Mountain.
The county is taking a 20-year lease to the property and plans to spend $2 million developing it into a picnic ground, party location and spot for water recreation, including paddle boating, fishing and ice skating. The county will also add a trail around the former reservoir to open it to walking and biking. DiVincenzo said that $1 million of the funding for the work would come from New Jersey’s Green Acres Program and the rest from the Essex County Open Space Trust Fund and the county’s capital budget. Under the terms of the lease, the county will pay $75,000 per year for the first 10 years and $85,000 per year for the second 10 years.
“The Orange Reservoir has great, untapped potential and, for many years, it has been my goal to develop public recreation opportunities on this property. We can see paddle boats on the water, people walking and biking on waterfront pathways, fishing, ice skating and enjoying other leisure activities. It’s a spectacular and unmatched natural setting, totally unexpected, right here in Essex County,” DiVincenzo said. “With Turtle Back Zoo, the Treetop Adventure Course, miniGOLF Safari, Boathouse Restaurant and Codey Arena nearby, the Reservoir is an ideal extension to our popular South Mountain Recreation Complex. It will be a place where families and people of all ages will come to escape the hustle and bustle of their busy lives,” he added.
The county is going to demolish the dilapidated house on Cherry Lane and put a 35-by-60 foot open air pavilion in its place. There will also be be an outdoor fireplace and patio. There will be parking for cars and buses across the street, and a traffic light for pedestrians. The design work is being handled by French & Parrello, which also created McLoone’s Boathouse, the miniature golf course and the penguin exhibit at Turtle Back Zoo. County officials said the area would be open to the public next spring.