austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

We tore up the walls

We went into the gift shop where, as with last year, there was considerable merchandise from defunct parks like Geauga Lake or from Paramount-branded parks. Paramount sold off its amusement parks years ago. They did have more Conneaut Lake Park merchandise, though, including shirts for the park and for Adams Amusements, which operates the rides. So that's another way the park was looking much more like a fairly normal, functional amusement park this time around, besides the signs and the cleaned-up areas and the like. They also had a miscellaneous set of video games that we are pretty sure weren't in the arcade last year. They're not top-of-the-line games, obviously, but finally there was a Ms Pac Man/Galaga with enough audio pace around it that I could hear the Galaga noises. Here I asked about the Log Cabin and learned that the clerk didn't know, but, it had been some kind of restaurant and maybe it's this building?

The Midway was marginally more functional this time too, with several games open, although it was one employee manning all of them and running back and forth based on where people seemed to be. The repeated rains had meant the Thursday crowd never materialized and bunny_hugger gave in to his entreaties and played one where, if I have it right, you roll balls into holes and get a cheap prize for the unmarked holes and better prizes for the colored holes. She got three cheap prizes, picking some spiky rubber balls, not inflated. This would be our main souvenir stuff for the park and we brought it back to the car for stowage.

While walking back into the park I went a tiny bit north and found an old guard house with the traffic gate raised. It looked dusty and abandoned, like so much of the park; we could guess about its purpose, of course, but anyone could do that. And then we kept exploring an outskirt of the park we hadn't seen before, either last year or earlier in the day's visit. Some of it was fairly normal --- the Reed Avenue Picnic Area, with pavilions large and numerous enough to feed several major events at once --- and then some of it was the water park.

Conneaut Lake, like many parks, opened a water park; unfortunately, Splash City apparently wasn't the money press that water parks are for most places. The water park hasn't been opened in years now, and I imagine it would take a major renovation project to make it openable again, though we did notice in the bathrooms by the water park that someone still had his spa and water service engineering certification and it was still current. I have to imagine the real killer is the staffing requirements --- if you're going to have large groups of people into the water you can't just have one guy watching a half-dozen features, you need lifeguards or the place turns into Action Park --- but they've left everything standing, either out of hopes for the future or because it costs money to tear down attractions too.

Walking along the north side gave us good chances to look at attractions like Cliffhanger Falls --- a lazy river decorated with cartoon alligators and a mouse windsurfing behind a rabbit in a motorboat and of course Spongebob Squarepants and the various Little Mermaid characters --- and the slides and pool and all that. And then we realized: there wasn't much of a fence around this. I mean, there were several fences in various states of repair around it all, but for the most park, it was a standard five-foot chain-link fence. So all that's keeping a legion of people from doing urban exploration foolishness on an abandoned water park is, apparently, the good sense of the urban-exploration public. And of all the teenagers in the area. Suddenly the attractive-nuisance frontier of the abandoned roller coaster seemed tame. However incredible anything you find at Conneaut Lake Park is, around the corner is something the more amazing.

Finally at the end of the abandoned water park we found the sign and the concrete space for a Yo-Yo, a kind of swing ride, but no evidence of the ride itself. We also found another set of bathrooms which we hadn't suspected existed. We'd known the park used to have another set of bathrooms, in Kiddieland, but those were burned down several years ago (arson, I think), and we hadn't figured the park being large enough to have had three bathrooms. These turned out to be functional even if the men's room gave off the air of the Perth Amboy YMCA men's room.

We also saw that photojournalist walking with someone who somehow had that air of being park-management-type, reinforcing the idea that news had broken but who knew what it might be. I couldn't make out anything from what they were talking about past a reference to ``sixteen lots''. One plan for saving the park has been to divide the property into smaller lots so they can be assessed separately and, of course, to sell it off. The park's sold most of its antique carousel horses to survive; possibly it sold the missing Yo-Yo or some other absent rides (there's a Musik Express station without the mechanism or cars or anything, for example, and I can't remember whether they had the Musik Express last year) similarly. Selling off land to keep going is ... thinkable, but also, kind of horrible to think about.

We did some further exploring of the edges of the park --- I think there was also a little sprinkling of rain here, though to be honest, the rain came and went so many times it's hard to keep track --- and part of that brought us back into Kiddieland where the world comes to an end. Really, there's a very scary bridge and a path that leads out into the jungle, but it's blocked off and the bridge looks horrifyingly rickety and when I went back to poke around as far as I could a park employee came over and told me that guests weren't allowed there. I choked out a ``Sorry'' and felt like by going quite that far I had broken the trust of the Conneaut Lake Park community. I couldn't think of more to say.

Apparently, the park used to have its own jungle-safari ride and attraction including live zoo animals, and to a shockingly recent date of sometime in the 90s. We're supposing that all the animals were sent to responsible zoos or caretakers before that part of the park was sealed off. It looks completely overgrown and jungle-claimed itself. We suppose it is improbable that a pack of feral tigers is prowling around the closed-off areas but consider the place.

Trivia: The $30,000 check Western Union gave Thomas Edison in 1870 as payment for a telegraph device (which synchronized multiple stock printers to avoid transmission errors) was apparently the first check Edison ever held in his life. Source: Edison: A Biography, Matthew Josephson.

Currently Reading: Bob-Lo: An Island In Troubled Waters, Annessa Carlisle.

PS: In A Really Old Universe, more pondering about infinitely old but not infinitely large universes.

Tags: amusement parks, conneaut lake park revisited, west pennsylvania parks tour

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