Controversy Erupts Over New Jersey’s Practice of Naming Rest Stops After Notable Figures


There are a lot of great and important people from New Jersey’s history. Nobody can ignore how important people like Thomas Edison are.

Or think about George Washington and how he changed things right here in The Garden State. Huge effects that changed this country in ways that go beyond New Jersey.

Then there are the artists in our area. Some examples are Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, and Witney Houston. What a great place to live in The Great Garden State!

Danny DeVito and James Gandolfini are two stars that no one should miss. Once more, these are just a few cases to drive home the point.

It’s not a surprise that the people in charge in New Jersey want to find ways to celebrate these important people. Many things about their lives changed or still change the way we live today.

One idea was put forward, and in 2021, it was actually put into action. At that point, the rest stops on the Garden State Parkway were given new names that honor great New Jerseyans.

It’s not the first big highway in the state to do this, though. Rest stops on the New Jersey Turnpike have been named after famous people from the Garden State for a long time, long before it became important on the Parkway.

What could be wrong with that if it’s been going on in some form in New Jersey for a while? What is it about the changes that some people don’t like?

Some people do not like the people who are chosen to be named after rest stops. Bruce Springsteen even turned down the chance to have one named after him.

There’s nothing wrong with the people themselves. That’s more of a personal matter than anything else.

It’s more about not being sure where these rest stops are in the first place.

Before the Garden State Parkway changed the names of their rest stops, they were named after the town or place where they were located. Like, the rest stop for Jon Bon Jovi used to be called the Cheesequake rest stop.

What does that have to do with anything? Because the town of Cheesequake is in Old Bridge TWP.

The rest stop is also close to Cheesequake State Park, which is another place right next to The Garden State Parkway.

In addition, travelers can use these physical places to get a good idea of what part of the state the rest stops are in.

The next rest stop farther south has the same thing. If someone says “Monmouth,” you know right away that the rest stop is in Monmouth County, which is part of The Garden State Parkway.

But if you hear the name Judy Blume, you might not know where that is except that it’s a famous person from New Jersey. The old Monmouth Rest Area is now called the Judy Blume Rest Area, as you might have guessed.

That’s the point. Because rest stops are named after people, it’s not always easy to figure out where they are.

What about the Garden State Parkway’s Celia Cruz Service Area? Could you tell me where that one is?

You probably wouldn’t go that way if you don’t take that route often. And if you were driving on the Garden State Parkway and needed to stop, could you tell me right away where that is?

If someone said “Forked River Service Area,” on the other hand, you would know right away because that’s a real place. By the way, the Forked River spot is now known as the Celia Cruz Service Area.

It would help if rest stops were named after mile marks. For instance, if someone said, “Let’s try to get to Rest Stop 100,” you’d know right away how far away it is.

Even though GPS and all these cool apps are handy, it’s still nice to have a general idea without all that tech. This is where calling these buildings after well-known people falls short.

I’m not saying that we don’t honor these people. It might be better to use them as sub-names.

As an example, why not call it the Frank Sinatra Service Area for Atlantic County? It is a bit long, but at least it talks about the place.

Let’s go back to the example of Monmouth County but this time use the example of the mile sign. The Mile 100 Judy Blume Service Area is one name for it.

You get it. You can name the service area after a town, a landmark, or a mile sign. More generally, it helps people figure out where these rest stops are.

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