Calling it the "best zoo in the state," Gov. Chris Christie officially opened the newest exhibit at the Turtle Back Zoo Tuesday, featuring the largest exhibit in the zoo's history.
Joined by his daughter Bridget, Christie cut the ribbon on the new Sea Lion Sound Exhibit. The large crowd included zoo visitors, numerous county and state officials, as well as zoo employees and volunteers.
This new, natural habitat-themed display is the largest exhibit developed in Turtle Back’s history, and features an 82,000-gallon pool for sea lions and a 1,600-gallon touch tank for sting rays, along with space for education programs and special events.
The Turtle Back Zoo marks its 50th anniversary in 2013, noted Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, whom Christie called a force behind the zoo's transformation.
DiVincenzo recalled growing up in Newark, where, he noted, the Governor was born. For his part, said Christie, "I first came to the Turtle Back Zoo when I was four years old, in 1966."
The county executive thanked the Turtle Back Zoo's major donors, as the governor and Bridget Christie fed the newest additions to the zoo family. Wednesday marked the official return of sea lions to the zoo, for the first time in more than 20 years.
A large and enthusiastic crowd greeted both the governor and the sea lions.