With 140 animals of 40 species, the Turtle Back Zoo opened in 1963 as a seasonal children’s zoo. The community and county government brought the zoo to life, while the Essex County Park Commission administered its daily functions. With funds generated from the sale of land for highway development, architects and builders selected a fairy tale, Hans Christian Andersen aesthetic for their theme. Once opened, Turtle Back Zoo was an instant success, and its popularity led to it becoming a year-round attraction that appealed to all ages. The family recreation experience came to include wildlife conservation education as well. In the early 2000s, the zoo was renovated, and a first-class animal hospital was built to serve the growing animal collection. The site is now recognized as a first-rate, modern zoo and is accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums.
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