Fairy Tale Forest

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Of all the attractions and that have existed in West Milford, few were more beloved than Fairly Tale Forest in Oak Ridge, NJ. Whether a class trip or family outing to the park, it was a long awaited and much anticipated event for generations of children. For many years you could spot Fairy Tale Forest Bumper Stickers on Highways all around the Tri-State Area.

The story of Fairy Tale Forest began in 1955 when Paul Woehle, Sr., a German immigrant, built Fairy Tale Forest. The cottages were all designed and made by Woehle and his two sons. There were kiddie rides, magic shows, story-telling, and roaming costumed characters. In addition, there was a gift/candy shop and snack bar in the main building.

A winding path led guests through the woods, and along the way they were able to glimpse key moments from the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. More than 20 cottages sat nestled in the trees, their interiors depicting tableaus from the most famous children’s stories. Woehle completed his project in two years, and it opened to the public in 1957.

In winter, the forest was decorated to bursting with lights, transforming it into a winter wonderland the likes of which can nowadays rarely be found outside of story books. Those visiting the forest in winter could expect to be greeted by Frosty the Snowman and a cup of hot chocolate. Santa Claus awaited eager youngsters in his Christmas House, and gently interrogated each for his or her Christmas wishes

In many ways the 1950s and 1960s were golden years at the park, and it was filled with locals, summer residents and folks visiting for the day. Fairy Tale Forest was a favorite spot for school, business and church outings. The park seemed to fill a perfect niche at Oak Ridge .

But America was changing and by the 1970s, Fairy Tale Forest was feeling the competition from larger parks as well as the slowing of the baby boom. Other parks had already succumbed –Jungle Habitat closed in 1976 and Acton Park appeared with it’s Alpine Slide and Water Park. Visitors began to feel that the attraction was becoming dated and in 2003 the dwindling visitors eventually forced the park to close.

In 1993, pop star Mariah Carey utilized the park as a location for the music video, ”All I Want for Christmas Is You”. Outdoor scenes were shot at the Fairy Tale Forest, where Carey’s then-husband Tommy Mottola made a cameo appearance as Santa Claus

Today, there is talk that in a dark patch of woods scattered with bits of decomposing nostalgia. Against what seems like all odds, Fairytale Forest may be reborn in 2016, with the grounds once again helmed by a member of the founding family. Those who remember Fairytale Forest as it was may bring have the opportunity to bring their own children to experience the wonder found in that patch of woods in Oak Ridge, New Jersey.

Original Antiquities Echoes Article Appears at: https://antiquityechoes.blogspot.com/2011/07/fairytale-forest.html

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October 2016: The 40th Anniversary of Jungle Habitat’s Last Season

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No large scale operation in West Milford history was locally derisive as Jungle Habitat. The park was a $10 million dollar theme park owned by Warner Bros. In the summer of 1972, the park had 500,000 visitors that paid $3.75 per adult and $2.00 per child to enter the attraction.

The park contained over 1,500 animals; it consisted of a drive-through section and a walk-through section. The drive-through section was an animal safari park and the walk-through amusement area was called Jungle Junction.

During its 4 year of operations, visitors from all over the globe visited the park. In fact, it is estimated that over 6 million people had visited Jungle Habitat in the four years it was open. Attendance was down by 1976 and Warner Brothers proposed to introduce some new entertainment options to the park by requesting an expansion variance from the Township of West Milford.

Warner Brothers wanted to build an amusement park on the South side of the property. The new area would feature a Ferris wheel, log flume ride and water features. The park closed at dusk, the newly proposed rides would be open during regular daytime operating hours. Residents within 500 feet of the proposed site protested and applied pressure to township officials. Township officials required approvals at the ride level rather than as one single plan. The zoning application was eventually withdrawn by Warner Brothers as they felt the residents and township committee were not supportive of the project. Add a $3.5 million dollar operating loss (since July of 1972) to that lack of support and a swift exit seemed very appealing. Warner chose to walk away from their 10 million dollar investment.

The Idylease Heliport & Jungle Habitat

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In 1972, executives from Warner Brother’s had a problem with one of the most popular attractions at Jungle Junction. The reptile house had a hourly show that featured highly poisonous snakes and the handler was allergic to the anti-venom that would save him in the event that he was bitten. Park management needed a solution to quickly transport the handler to a medical treatment facility.

Warner Brothers contacted local physician Dr. Arthur Zampella and together they made application to the Federal Aviation Administration for a heliport at Idylease. In the off possibility of a snake bite, the handler would be transported to Idylease and then flown by air to a trauma center where he would be treated by alternative methods.

The Idylease Helistop is a remnant of Jungle Habitat from 40 years ago and still maintains the FAA license. The heliport is currently used by the NJ State Police when traumatic accidents occur in the area. Patients are transported to Idylease and flown to the nearest trauma center from the landing field.

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