By Nadine Cafaro
Residents across Orange County agree on one thing: they don’t want any more large warehouses built. So, how will they react to a brand new, multi-million dollar park inspired by dinosaurs potentially coming to a site in Montgomery?
The Town of Montgomery could be the new home to an $18-million dinosaur-themed park following an announcement from Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus, Montgomery Supervisor Ron Feller and Developer for Dino Park LLC Neil Gold this past Monday. Previously, the park was looking to develop sites in Monroe and Wallkill.
The ADA compliant park, which will be located at the intersection of Route 17K and Barron Road, will include 60 life-size animatronic dinosaurs and serve many educational purposes. It will also have six playgrounds, an age-graded fossil dig site, a primordial splash park, a “T-Rexpress” train, small dinosaur rides, an amphitheater and more.
The idea comes from Gold, who has been trying to build this park since 2019. “It’s not an amusement park. It’s a wonderful amusement park and an educational entertainment for children of all ages, from two to 92. Everybody loves dinosaurs,” said Gold.
In 2021, Gold and his team received a CFA Empire Development and Market New York grant for $1.7 million, but haven’t found the right site to build until now. The area they’re hoping to build on is 139.7 acres, but the park would only encompass 35 acres. The wetlands in the area would be preserved with a 100-foot buffer.
The park, according to Neuhaus, will also highlight county history. He mentioned that the first full size Mastadon was discovered in Orange County, and that one was even found down the road from the project’s site.
Neuhaus had nothing but positive things to say about the park, noting that it has been in the works for two years. “Most of the property that we’re talking about right now will be preserved in open space,” Neuhaus mentioned.
The park is in talks to create 130 jobs and over $4 million in payroll. The town will also receive $1 per admission post fee. Most of all, there will be no PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement between the town and the developers.
“There is no PILOT agreement. When do we ever hear of a big company or something this transformational with this amount of investment in our community coming without a PILOT agreement?” Neuhaus asked.
Feller piggybacked a lot on this, but made it clear that the Montgomery Town Board is 100 percent on board with this project coming to Montgomery. “We are 100% in favor of this particular project. I met with my town board last night, and I also know that the planning board has agreed to give their time and energy to this process,” said Feller.
They also have a plan for traffic flow. The park would be open April 1 to December, with hours of operation from 10 a.m. to dusk. Neuhaus mentions that even with these hours, ticket times may be staggered, so not everyone would enter at once.
When asked about local support from residents, Neuhaus responded that its a better outcome than what the area is zoned for.
“There’s a big push around the county for anti-warehouse, and this property is zoned for warehousing. We think this is a great alternative towards that,” said Neuhaus.
The park is projected to attract 300,000 visitors and over $39 million in revenue. They also predict that a sixth of these [300,000] visitors would be students on field trips.
Orange County Economic Development Director Steven Gross mentioned how great this would be for tourism.“We really want to be the family destination for tourism and hospitality in the Hudson Valley,” said Gross.
Neuhaus also mentioned that the volume of people would therefore support local restaurants and businesses.
They hope to open Dino Park sometime in the spring of 2025, but it’s not without trial and error. The developers still have to go through the planning board process, which Feller mentioned is typically nine to 12 months long. Despite this, Feller mentions the positive feedback he’s gotten from local IDAs (industrial development agencies) and some Montgomery brands.
“I have not, since we entered into this negotiation, received one negative phone call in my office. A lot of positive things are going on,” said Feller.