Garden State Parkway Service Areas, Roadside Parks, and White Sands
In my post, “Jack Klugman, Fast Food, and NJ Turnpike Service Areas,” I talked about the criteria for getting a rest stop naming honor in New Jersey. In it, I mentioned that,
The criteria of being dead and famous could apply to a lot of New Jerseyans, but unfortunately, the limitation is the number of areas. Locked at thirteen with no new ones on the horizon, a name would have to be removed or one of the formerly closed ones would have to be re-opened.
That was true until this week, when New Jersey figured out how to name more rest stops after people.
Garden State Parkway Service Areas
As you might guess, New Jersey has more than one major highway. The New Jersey Turnpike, which connects to Interstate 95 runs north-south the length of New Jersey, but another toll road does the same thing, the Garden State Parkway.
The Parkway also happens to have service areas. So while they might have run out of places to name on the Turnpike, the Parkway was unclaimed territory. Until now.
That is because nine New Jersey Hall of Famers are getting their names attached to stops along that road. Not only that, but while using the restroom or grabbing a coffee you will see special exhibits about that person.
So who is getting a service area? According to Northjersey.com, James Gandolfini, Larry Doby, Connie Chung, Whitney Houston, Jon Bon Jovi, Judy Blume, Celia Cruz, Frank Sinatra, and Toni Morrison are being honored.
One very famous citizen of New Jersey is not on that list, and that is Bruce Springsteen. An offer was made to the Boss, but ever mysterious and enigmatic, Bruce did a very Rock n’ Roll thing and declined the offer.
This is the second Retroist post that looked at highway rest stops, so I decided to look a little deeper at their history in the US.
According to what I could find online, the history of what would become the modern highway rest area in the United States started in either 1928 or 1929 as a Roadside Park.
According to the aptly named Rest Area History.org, while Connecticut has some documented claims for 1928, Michigan has some stronger evidence for a 1929 origin.
People had been pulling over on the side of the road to rest since the inception of the automobile, but it wasn’t until a young county engineer in Michigan named Allan Williams had some rough purpose-built picnic table put down next to a road that the idea of an official rest spot or “roadside park” would start to take off.
Williams, with the help of snowplow crews, had done the work on a whim.
The following spring, Mr. Williams put his first roadside table out at a site along Route 16, 3 miles south of the village of Saranac.
Drivers and their families found it delightful and started writing positive letters to the Michigan State Highway Department.
Once the department figured out what these letters were talking about, they embraced the idea and roadside parks began appearing across Michigan.
The concept quickly spread, and most major highways have descendants of this first roadside park. One of my favorites was one I found at White Sands National Monument.
White Sands is a beautiful place to visit and sledding downs the pale sand is an unreal experience. While it’s easy to get enchanted by the natural beauty, it also has an amazing rest and picnic area.
The sun beats down hard on White Sands, so in the 1960s they designed these wonderful picnic tables with curved metal covers. They are simple, but they get the job done and from a distance look like a train of wagons rolling across the desert.
Not sure if New Mexico has any plans to name their rest areas, but if they did, this would be a prime location to get your name on.