Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey, home to the tallest roller coaster in the world, is planning on breaking another record. The park has decided to build a massive solar farm on the property, but not everyone is pleased with the idea.
Asbury Park Press’ Shannon Mullen writes that the theme park is going to tear down approximately 18,000 trees in order to clear the space for what will become the largest solar farm of its kind in New Jersey. The resulting energy collected would be enough to meet 98% of the amusement park’s power requirements. A parking lot based solar farm was discussed, but it was deemed unfeasible. This is surprising, considering the fact that the parking lot there is about the size of the entire amusement park, not including Hurricane Harbor or Wild Safari.
Concerned environmental groups are pointing out that the section of forest that Six Flags wants to tear down is currently inhabited by bald eagles and other endangered species. Local Sierra Club leader, Jeff Tittel, stated, “We actually like the idea of them going green, but you shouldn’t make a tradeoff between green energy or an environmentally sensitive forest.” As a response to criticisms, Six Flags has agreed to replant 25,000 trees over seven years. The problem with that is that it will take decades for the trees to become a mature forest, and by then it could be too late for the currently endangered local species. The best solution would probably be to create as many parking lot based solar panels as possible and to place the remaining ones throughout sunny areas of the theme parks themselves. This plan would have the most minimal negative environmental impact.
In Contemporary Urban Planning, one aspect of planning that John Levy emphasizes is energy planning. “Energy planning has a much simpler goal: the saving of nonrenewable resources,” (Levy 307). There is no question that Six Flags is participating in energy planning by creating a solar farm. The big issue is the question of whether or not the solar energy produced is better for the environment overall than keeping the forest that is currently on the site in place. The benefits probably do not outweigh the costs with regard to the context of local wildlife as the plan is now. However, if the solar panels were placed in a better location, then the project would be beneficial for both people and the environment.