In Monroe, it’s the topic on everyone’s mind: “Are dinosaurs coming to my backyard?”
Plans for a dinosaur park have migrated from Wallkill to a 131-acre swath of land in Monroe, enraging some residents. While some show their support for the proposed attraction, the loudest voices come from homeowners distraught about potential traffic, noise and pollution.
“Stay extinct — the town is selling out for tax revenues,” said Matthew Connolly, Sr. on “Monroe Matters,” a Facebook page for locals “to voice their opinions about all things Monroe.” In the same group, one Maureen Richardson has repeatedly shared a petition titled “Citizens of Monroe not Amused by Amusement Park Project” — presently bearing over 500 signatures —under posts related to the park.
Many posts in the Facebook group take direct aim at Neil Gold, the developer and mastermind behind the $12 million dollar project. In one such post, Monroe resident Liam Wisehart made his feelings clear: “I don’t believe Gold has ever met a homeowner.”
The reaction hasn’t been all bad. In one Facebook post, “Monroe Matters” member Danielle Stevens expressed her enthusiasm: “This will bring much needed revenue for our town and another great thing for our kids to all enjoy! Let’s all get excited and cheer it on!” The 168 comments on Stevens’ post range from supportive to contentious, such as one reply by Timothy Jon Mitts saying “Yep it’s so beautiful that Tony Cardone hides it from the public until after they vote on a resolution that he signs a lease!”
Other critics of the project have gone old school, distributing flyers urging residents to attend the town board meeting on April 18. This meeting is a critical step toward the advancement or cessation of Gold’s venture. One flyer that appeared in local mailboxes this week includes a list of grievances: “This Jurassic sized nuisance will tap our [groundwater], clog our sewage, hog our roadways, and pollute our neighborhoods with light and noise.” The flyer does not identify its distributor, but includes a hyperlink to the aforementioned petition.
Cardone makes a case
While being interviewed for this story, town supervisor Tony Cardone acknowledged the concerns of his constituents, and said that the project may “possibly fit both our needs as a community and the operator’s needs,” and comes with “pros and cons.”
Cardone listed the benefits: “There would be a revenue benefit. First, there would be a leasehold revenue. There would be the tax revenue. There is going to be a contribution to the fire department. There is going to be a playground that would be built for the town. There’s so many benefits out there. It’s gonna obviously create jobs for local residents and it’s gonna give our children a great educational source to understand what the dinosaurs were about.”
He offered fewer words regarding the cons.
Cardone also cleared up a misconception about the essence of the park, saying, “I have to stress: it’s not an amusement park [as much as] it is an educational and recreational place.”
The Village of Monroe’s mayor, Neil Dwyer, did not respond to a request for a comment.
Learning from Legoland
Both critics and supporters of the project have drawn parallels between the dinosaur park and Legoland in Goshen, which opened in May of last year.
In a “Monroe Matters” Facebook post, group member Jayne Tepedino Prechtel declared her trust in councilman Scancarello and Cardone. “I also think it’s a great idea. I live here and I’m all for bringing something to the area like this. When people started coming to Legoland they saw all our beautiful Hudson Valley had to offer and started knowing about us,” she wrote. “Housing [demand] went up and so did our prices. I believe this will do the same for Monroe as well as give families enjoyment.”
Not everybody shares Prechtel’s appreciation of Legoland. Press accounts of public reaction to the project during planning phases highlighted concerns about environmental impacts, and later, dozens of violations incurred $600,000 in fines.