Forget everything I wrote last week about Duke's Parkway West. Throw it all away.
The front page story about the expansion and reconfiguration of Duke Farms visitors' programs in Sunday's Courier News has caused me to rethink Hillsborough's request to give the 1.5 mile road to Somerset County.
For me, the key elements of the expansion - which is expected to open in the spring of 2010 - are the opening of the grounds for free non-tour exploration, the creation of an orientation center at the Farm Barn south of Dukes Parkway, and the projected tripling of the annual attendance from 50,000 to 150,000 visitors.
I am not at all concerned about having 150,000 annual visitors or the associated traffic. In the heyday of Great Adventure, that would be a three-day weekend total! I am excited about allowing visitors some limited ability to roam the grounds. This hearkens back to the early part of the last century when the estate was open as a public park.
What intrigues me the most is the plan for the new orientation center. Looking closely at the map which accompanied the news story, one can clearly see that the portion of Duke's Parkway West from Route 206 to the Farm Barn has been highlighted to look like an entrance driveway. Also, what is described on the map legend as the route of a "people mover" begins near the Barn south of the Duke's Parkway, and then crosses the road and heads north to loop around the grounds of the estate.
These clues, combined with the assertion by Duke Farms representatives that they would like to privatize roads such as Duke's Parkway that bisect the property, makes me wonder if it would really be wise to turn over control of the road to the county before the entire Duke Farms Plan has been reviewed.
After all, Hillsborough has maintained that road for many years now, and it would be a shame for the county to acquire the road from us and then turn around and sell it to Duke Farms. Besides that, in any possible future negotiation with Duke Farms over their ambitious project, it would be nice for Hillsborough to have the road as a bargaining chip.