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April 07, 2011
When Great Adventure opens Saturday, two 11-week-old European brown bear cubs will great visitors from the animal nursery, located in a new section of the park called Safari Discoveries.
Of the 1,200 animals living in the adjacent Six Flags Wild Safari, as many as 100 animals are born a year, said Dave Peranteau, senior supervisor of animal education programming at the park. Many of these baby animals will reside for public viewing in the nursery, he said.
"Spring is great. That's the time a lot of them are born," he said.
On a recent Thursday, the brown bear cubs bounded around their enclosure and gummed the hands of caretakers with their toothless mouths.
"He'll be 600 pounds when he's full grown," Peranteau said of the smaller of the two, a male cub named Spot. "She'll be closer to 400 (pounds)," he said of the female, named Scarlet.
Within a year or two, the cubs will be reunited with their relatives within the Wild Safari, and new baby animals will replace them within the nursery.
Safari Discoveries will also include a sea lion exhibit with underwater viewing pool and "touch stations" for children to feel an array of animal artifacts, Peranteau said.
"Having a safari for 30 years, we have access to quite a few animals' skeletons," he said. "We have two beautiful elephant skulls. We have bones from pretty much every type of animal we have out there.
"We're trying to make it as interactive as possible," he added.
To promote the Wild Safari within the Great Adventure park, staff will lead bus tours into the safari for an additional fee.
Six Flags will also open its new 154-foot tall Green Lantern roller coaster — themed for a DC Comics superhero by the same name — on May 25, said Angel Aristone, director of communications for the Jackson parks.
Adam Revesz, New Jersey regional representative for American Coaster Enthusiasts, is "very excited about that coaster," he said in a telephone interview Monday.
The stand-up roller coaster — made by the famous coaster-manufacturing company Bollinger & Mabillard — will include five loops, two corkscrews and a 144-foot drop.
On the stand-up coasters, "you almost feel like you're skiing," Revesz said, who has ridden about 400 coasters in the United States and Canada.
Six Flags attendance was up by nearly 1 million visitors in 2010 after a slump in 2008 and 2009, according to the Associated Press. The company reported that 24.3 million people visited 19 Six Flags parks across the nation.
Though Six Flags management does not release attendance numbers for individual parks, Great Adventure Park President John F. Fitzgerald said the Jackson parks "had a good year" in 2010.
New marketing strategies mean the three parks — Great Adventure, Wild Safari and neighboring Hurricane Harbor — will be advertised in package deals as one product, he said. Previous marketing campaigns treated Great Adventure and Wild Safari as one product, and Hurricane Harbor as a separate product, though the three parks are adjacent to one another on the 2,200-acre Jackson property.
Until the corporation's first quarter earnings are released, Fitzgerald said he was embargoed from discussing the company's finances further.
Great Adventure management took heat last year after officials disbanded the park's fire department as part of a restructuring plan, thereby eliminating its firefighter's union. As part of the move, officials fired five part-time and two full-time firefighters and replaced the positions.
The park currently employs two full-time firefighters and three seasonal firefighters, Fitzgerald said. Additional safety staff have firefighting training as well, he added.
"We're not in . . . the 1980s," Fitzgerald said, referring to the May 11, 1984, fire that killed eight teenagers in Great Adventure's Haunted Castle.
The Jackson parks have sprinkler systems, a firetruck and a centralized fire alarm system, he said.
"It's more than sufficient to protect the park," he said.
Cassville Fire Company in Jackson also supports Six Flags staff with fire emergencies, Fitzgerald said.
"We have a great working relationship with them," he said.
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