Environmentalists protest New Jersey theme park's plan to cut down trees for solar farm

Industries Associated Press

Environmentalists upset about a New Jersey theme park's plan to cut down 19,000 trees to build a solar farm staged an Earth Day "hike" near the site where Six Flags Great Adventure wants to build a 90-acre solar farm.

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Environmental groups, including the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club and Save Barnegat Bay, told The Asbury Park Press (http://on.app.com/1Ga69vp ) that the solar farm would destroy the ecosystem of the woodlands.

Former New Jersey Gov. Jim Florio called the plan an "abomination" and said it would be a massive mistake.

"The reputational risk for the company is very high," Florio said. "The whole idea of a company that caters to young children doing the things that they're doing is something that will not resonate well with young people."

The facility, located just east of Safari Park, would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 226,000 tons over a period of 15 years, nearly 24 times what the undisturbed forest is capable of removing on its own, Six Flags Great Adventure President John Fitzgerald said in a statement.

Six Flags has also pledged to replant nearly 26,000 trees on the theme park's property over a period of seven years and says the facility would generate enough electricity to supply virtually all of the theme park's power.

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Opponents said Six Flags should build the solar farm in a parking lot, instead, but Fitzgerald said the idea wasn't workable, citing safety concerns, future development plans for the area, and the space limitations a solar system would place on open-air concerts and charity events held in the parking area.

A total of 18,965 trees are slated for removal, Fitzgerald said.

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Information from: Asbury Park (N.J.) Press, http://www.app.com