State looks to give Jungle Habitat new life

| 20 Oct 2016 | 10:50

The state wants to create its first mountain bike park at the former Jungle Habitat site.
Last week, the Department of Environmental Protection started soliciting bids for a private operator to manage what would be New Jersey's first park for mountain bike riders at the 800-acre tract of land, located adjacent to the Greenwood Lake Airport and near the Long Pond Ironworks State Park.

Some details

According to the DEP, the private operator would provide services that will generate revenue for the state park system. The operator would pay $12,000 per year in rent, increasing 3 percent each year of the 10-year contract, as well as a minimum 8 percent of its gross revenue. The contract can be renewed for one additional 10-year term.
According to the DEP, the Jungle Habitat site has the potential to allow visitors to tap into nostalgia and a unique piece of New Jersey history while enjoying healthy outdoors recreation if it is turned into a mountain bike park.
Potential bidders must be mindful of the region’s ecology when providing park development plans, according to the DEP.
The request for proposals asks bidders to consider minor site improvements, such as improving and expanding riding trails, rehabilitating the existing parking area and main access road, and installing semi-permanent or mobile restroom facilities. The successful bidder will also have the option of providing food and/or bar concessions in temporary or semi-permanent structures.
Mayor Bettina Bieri said she hopes the township will have some input on the project.
The site has 30 acres of parking lots as well as 11 miles of bike, equestrian and hiking trails.

Township input?

"This is a DEP initiative on state-owned land, so while the township is seeking to have an opportunity for input, we will not have any final vote in the matter," Bieri said. "That said, I have had ongoing open dialogue with the DEP regarding the old Jungle Habitat site, which is currently underutilized. The goal is to offer more non-motorized recreational opportunities, which could increase tourism and enhance awareness of our beautiful West Milford community while preserving both the environment and the quality of life for neighboring residents."
Bieri said the proposals being sought are environmentally sensitive and would avoid any negative impact on existing activities at the site,including hiking, biking and horseback riding.
Bieri noted that any future operation at the site would be an expansion of uses already taking place, not the sole use for the property. So hikers and equestrians would still have use of the property. And she said local residents have reached out to her with other recreational ideas for the property.
"Although these endeavors are not for mountain biking, I am hopeful that some of these ideas could come to fruition," she said.
The township used the property for its "Thunder in the Highlands" July 4 celebration for many years.
Last year, the township council looked into creating an ATV park in the township and considered Jungle Habitat as a potential site. Residents in the surrounding area, though, were against the idea because of noise and the size of the property. The council dropped the issue.
Warner Brothers operated Jungle Habitat, a drive-through wildlife safari and theme park, from 1972 to 1976. The site sat for more than 20 years when the state bought it with Green Acres funds in 1998.
More information
Bids are due by 4 p.m. on Nov. 15, 2016. Go to for the full request for proposal.
What do you think about the Jungle Habitat property being turned into a mountain bike park? Go to and tell us.