A group of excited (albeit scared) children and adults congregated at Laurel Hill Park in Secaucus on Sunday, Dec. 4, as a roaring, blinking, moving, 14-ft. Tyrannosaurus rex loped out of the brush, led by a ranger to introduce the May 2012 opening of the Meadowlands region’s newest attraction, Field Station: Dinosaurs.
Field Station is a traveling dinosaur exhibit. It will consume 24 acres at the base of the 150 million-year-old Snake Hill rock formation in the park starting in May. Within the borders, visitors will be able to view 31 interactive, robotic dinosaurs created in China and engineered in Texas, including a 90-foot Argentinosaurus, the largest animatronic dinosaur to date.
In the exhibit, visitors can take a three-quarter mile natural trail and stop at four posts: ornithology, paleontology, ecology, and geology. Guests will be able to participate in an interactive educational program led by paleontologists and visit a Paleozoic petting zoo.
The children were not the only giddy ones in attendance at the press conference Sunday afternoon. Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonelli and Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise took their chances as the dino bowed its head to receive a good petting.
Gonelli welcomed Field Station to Secaucus and anticipated its success, because, after all, “every kid loves a dinosaur,” he said. He even donned the ranger’s hat for a while.
“[Field Station] will be educational, but it will be incredibly fun.” –Guy Gsell
Meadowlands Liberty Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Judith Ross commented that Dinosaur Station would fit nicely into the “ecological tourism” theme of the Meadowlands by leaving the site for the park largely untouched and wild and incorporating the area’s pre-exisitng natural beauty. The Meadowlands is as valued for its preserved marshlands, acres of hiking and biking trails, birdwatching, boating and fishing as it is for its stadium and arena.
Ross anticipates the park will draw tourists both national and international, with its location next to the Secaucus Junction NJ Transit station and just off of NJ Turnpike Exit 15x.
“We are very excited to be a part of this new adventure,” Ross said.
Field Station currently has a three-year lease with the county and is already taking reservations. Adult admission is $20, admission for children 12 and under is $17.50, and children under the age of 2 are free. Student group rates are available as well.
The park will be open to school groups only, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. beginning May 7, and will open to the general public on weekends between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. beginning May 26. In July the park will be open every day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The brains behind the beasts
“100 percent of little kids love dinosaurs,” Field Station Creator Guy Gsell stated. Since viewing a dinosaur exhibit at the 1965 World’s Fair, he said, “I never stopped.”
Gsell’s past is full of educational endeavors and theatrical pursuits. He served as Founding Director of Discovery Times Square, giving life to such exhibits as “King Tut,” “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition” and “daVinci’s Workshop.” Gsell was Managing Director of the Two River Theater Company in Red Bank – one of N.J.’s top theatre education programs – for six years.
He spent 12 years touring with the child theatre company, the Paper Bag Players. He has performed in off-Broadway productions, authored two plays, and is a singer-songwriter. Dinosaur Station allows Gsell to combine his self-proclaimed dinosaur obsession with his love for teaching and performance.
“Hudson County is a perfect backdrop for our project,” he said, as he pointed to the Snake Hill rock formation behind him. “This is possibly one of the few things that still exist that dinosaurs have actually seen.”
He emphasized that the park will provide children and adults with an expedition, not an exhibition.
Field Station’s education program has been created with the cooperation of the New Jersey State Museum and the Liberty Science Center.
“This will be educational,” he said, “but it will be incredibly fun.”
For more information on Field Station: Dinosaurs, go to www.fieldstationdinosaurs.com or call (973) 748-4561.
Gennarose Pope may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org