TRENTON, NJ – Visitors to Liberty State Park in Jersey City will be transported back in time and 3,000 miles west when they walk through the doors of the historic Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal Building. Once inside, they will find two travelling exhibits: Alcatraz: Life on the Rock and Gateway to Gold Mountain, The Asian Immigration Experience: Angel Island 1910-1940, which will be on display for free at the park through June 30.
It’s all part of the Department of Environmental Protection’s sustainable parks effort aimed at improving and expanding offerings and amenities, and generating more revenues at state parks across New Jersey.
“We want Liberty State Park to be more of a destination for New Jersey residents and persons from other states who might come through here to see Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, New Jersey’s 9/11 Memorial, the Liberty Science Center, or just some incredible views of New York’s skyline,” said DEP Assistant Commissioner of Natural and Historic Resources Amy Cradic. “This is part of the DEP’s overall sustainable parks effort to encourage more tourism to our state parks, forests and historic sites.”
“The Department also is committed to partnering with like-minded groups to provide high-quality, educational exhibits at no cost to New Jersey residents and which can make a visit to Liberty State Park an even more rewarding and enjoyable experience,” Cradic added.
In November 2011, Governor Chris Christie announced the state’s Sustainable Parks Plan designed to keep all 39 of New Jersey’s state parks open, to provide affordable recreation to state residents, especially during tough economic times. Components of the plan, which the Governor announced at Liberty State Park, include enhancing and expanding park programs, facilities and amenities to generate more visitors and revenues that can make the parks more financially self-sustaining.
In addition to Liberty State Park, Island Beach State Park in Ocean County and Wharton State Forest in Atlantic, Burlington and Camden counties will be prioritized as pilot projects for new, innovative parks function and program efforts.
Alcatraz: Life on the Rock showcases the fascinating history and infamous inmates of the Alcatraz Island penal facility through four main thematic displays and multiple freestanding components.
“Military History” examines Alcatraz’s role as a Civil War-era fortress and military prison, complete with a citadel cell block replicating a part of the island not traditionally open to visitors. A recreated prison cell is the centerpiece of “Life on the Inside,” which explores the conditions convicts experienced in Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. A third display looks at a group of American Indians who staged a 19-month political takeover of the island some six years after it closed. And, centering on two spectacular 8- by 12-foot hand painted murals, “Preserving the Rock” highlights the island’s current status as a national park and shares images of its lush gardens and wildlife.
The second exhibit, Gateway to Gold Mountain, The Asian Immigration Experience, focuses on another famous island in San Francisco Bay. Angel Island was used as an immigration station, welcoming millions of new arrivals to the United States, many from Asian countries. The exhibit examines the experience of these individuals, using images, personal letters, journal entries and poetry to describe their joy and heartbreak during the immigration process. The island also was used as a military installation, serving as a launch point for thousands U.S. servicemen and women headed to battle in the Pacific in World War II.
Both exhibits were created in partnership between the National Park Service and Alcatraz Cruises, a National Park Service concessioner of ferry service to Alcatraz Island.
“New Jersey's park system is second to none and these intriguing, unique exhibits will help draw even more visitors to Liberty State Park to experience its beauty and potential,” said Grace Hanlon, Executive Director of the New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism. “This strong partnership also portrays the diversity New Jersey has to offer its visitors."”
New Jersey’s park system encompasses 440,000 acres in all 21 New Jersey counties. This includes more than 500 miles of hiking and riding trails, plus 10 miles of ocean beaches at Island Beach State Park. The system also includes more than 50 historic sites, including historic districts, villages and battlefields.
It costs about $39 million to run the park system annually but parks generate just $8 million through user fees and leases. The sustainable parks plan has a goal of doubling those revenues by the end of 2015, partly by bringing in more users through programs such as the Alcatraz exhibit.
“Our goal is to give visitors to Liberty State Park, through offerings like the Alcatraz and Angel Island exhibits, a variety of interesting, informative and entertaining opportunities that will bring them out to this magnificent park,” said Lou Valente, Chief Project Advisor for the Division of Natural and Historic Resources.