Jungle Habitat

Jungle Habitat

Jungle Habitat, located in West Milford, New Jersey, was a Warner Brothers-owned theme park that opened in the summer of 1972, and closed in October 1976. By November 1972, the park had 500,000 paid visitors. The park contained well over 1,500 animals, a drive-through section and a walk-through section.

In the drive-through safari section, wild animals were permitted to walk up to vehicles passing through. Riders could see a variety of peacocks, baboons, camels, elephants, llamas, giraffes, and Siberian tigers. People could either drive their own cars through the safari or ride a bus through. Great Adventure in Jackson Township, New Jersey at the time had and still has a similar kind of drive through safari.

The walk-through section was a small theme park which included a petting zoo, camel and elephant rides, snack bars, gift shop, reptile house, dolphin show, Bugs Bunny and Friends shows including live Warner Brothers Looney Toons Characters, and a small train station and ride-on train called Jungle Junction. The park, however, did not yet have any amusement park rides. But this was also on the radar for the future.

Shortly after the park opened, an Israeli tourist driving through the safari in a taxi was attacked by two lions, bringing negative publicity to the park. [cite web|url=http://www.weirdnj.com/stories/_abandoned05.asp|title=Jungle Habitat: Wild and Abandoned in NJ|accessdate=2006-11-17|publisher=Weird NJ] In 1974, a woman was grabbed and bitten by a baby elephant who had reached out of its enclosure and grabbed the woman, who ultimately was awarded $200,000 for her injuries. [ [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9906E0D6123BF930A35751C0A967948260 "In Elephant-Bite Suit"] , "The New York Times", February 3, 1981. Accessed October 12, 2007.]

The park was also plagued by other problems, such as reports of dangerous animals escaping into West Milford. A big problem was traffic coming through West Milford during the summer as well as spring and autumn weekends.

Still, the park was profitable but business declined gradually. The problem was while the park had many visitors, it failed to attract repeat business due to the fact new attractions were not being added. In 1975, Warner Brothers proposed a $20 million expansion project to the site. The project would include a large wooden roller coaster, a steel junior coaster, a carousel merry-go-round, log flume, about a dozen adult spinning rides, and a few kiddie rides. The township's residents were divided on whether or not to approve such a project. A major issue would be the larger amount of traffic such a project would bring.

The park opened as usual during the summer of 1976 with rumors of a big expansion planned for the Summer of 1977. The park's last weekend was Halloween weekend in 1976 where there were usual Halloween festivities. October 31, 1976 would turn out to be the last day of operation. On November 2, 1976, township residents narrowly voted against the expansion. Once this proposal was voted down, Warner Brothers decided to shut the park down and put the land up for sale. After the park closed, some newspapers reported that several dead carcasses of the park's animals were left there to decay. Many people blamed the fact that Great Adventure located about 100 miles south played a role in the demise of Jungle Habitat. Still it is believed that Jungle Habitat was at a crossroads. It was either expand and grow or close down. Since expansion was not an easy option, closing down was the only alternative.

For years afterward, the buildings also were, and visits to the abandoned site became a favorite pastime of local youth and interested parties, with many accounts ultimately ending up in "Weird NJ" magazine.

The 800-acre (3.2 km²) Jungle Habitat property, containing 26 miles (42 km) of paved roads, was purchased by New Jersey for 1.45 million dollars in 1988. The property is adjacent to Norvin Green State Forest and is considered technically part of Norvin Green. However it is administered by Ringwood State Park. In 2007, under the direction of Ringwood State Park, the Ramapo Valley Cycling Club (a chapter of the [http://www.jorba.org Jersey Off Road Bicycle Association] ) performed a mass cleanup of the park, with 70 volunteers present. Brush was cleared and 2 dumpters of trash was removed. Today, under the direction of Ringwood State Park, JORBA is building single track trails designed for shared, non motorized use (bicycle, equestrian and foot traffic only). Currently there is about 5-6 miles of single track trail with more being planned in 2008.

West Milford is currently negotiating a lease arrangement with the State of NJ for the 10 acre macadam parking lot for recreational use. In recent years, the property been used to host West Milford township's Fourth of July celebrations (Thunder in the Highlands) under a special use permit. In addition, a local bicycle shop also sponsors an annual mountain bike race called [http://www.towncycle.com/events.aspx Rumble In the Jungle] . The area is now popular with dog walkers, mountain bikers, trails runners and equestrians.

References

External links

* [http://www.weirdnj.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=87&Itemid=28 Weird NJ Tours Abandoned Jungle Habitat]
* [http://www.song3.com/jungle_habitat__is__an__amazing_.htm Warner Brothers Jungle Habitat Information]
* [http://www.nynjtc.org/externalnews/2006/jungle1.html Article about current plans for the Jungle Habitat site]
* [http://idflux.typepad.com/idflux/2004/02/jungle_habitat.html Memories and a few pictures from Jungle Habitat]
* [http://www.abandonedbutnotforgotten.com/jungle_habitat.htm Pictures of the Abandoned Jungle Habitat site today]
* [http://www.lionsafari.com/index2.asp Canadian version of Jungle Habitat Still Open]


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