austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

I took a ride on the Shoot the Chute

The other thing in southern Jersey we really wanted to get to was Clementon Park. Indeed, my aunt had a couple times invited me to her place as a spot from which we could get to Clementon. This is a modest-sized park in Clementon, outside Camden, that dates back over a century but that went through a long period of suffering mightily from there being much bigger and better-capitalized parks in reasonable driving distance. That it was a trolley park for Camden can't have helped matters since, well, you've heard of Camden. About a decade ago the park lost its vintage 1919 roller coaster, the Jack Rabbit, mostly to its inability to maintain the wooden ride, and it stood as a surely depressing sight from 2003 to 2007. When my aunt suggested going to the park she also pointed out we should probably visit ``sooner rather than later'', always a dismal thing to hear.

We drove there from Soupy Island, managing to get lost a little bit in the thick of construction traffic (which also foiled us some in getting to Soupy Island for the start), and passing several examples of what Zippy the Pinhead aptly dubbed Self-Aware Diner Syndrome. I mean, this is already New Jersey; do we need a two-storey chrome-plated spot advertising that it's got all the sports channels on high definition TV?

And then we arrived at what the satellite navigator said was the address, and which was more a small church parking lot. Apparently the street names in the Clementon area are not as unique as one would like. To be fair, street names are inherently messy things; one of the address databases at work offers four alternate names for every road and it still doesn't capture the complexity of the state's road system. Fortunately the navigator also lets you search for nearby attractions, including for local Amusement Parks, and we weren't too far from it after all. We could see the place, a little less sooner than we hoped, but not too much later after all.

The thing is ... it sure didn't look like a doomed park, at least not when we visited. That was a decently warm day, sure, but it was also midweek and it'd been drizzling in the early afternoon. But the park also looked clean and well-maintained, and pretty solidly bustling. They got a new roller coaster --- with wooden tracks, though a steel support structure --- in 2004, and they've got, of course, a water park, Splash World. The park may be small --- Wikipedia credits it with 24 rides, plus seven water rides --- but it certainly seems lively.

But there's still evidence of the park having gone through a near-extinction event in the recent past. The park dates back to 1907, but you could not tell from anything there: the old roller coaster's long-since demolished, and the place lacks a wooden carousel, and the flat rides and children's attractions are all decent ones, in good shape, but nothing that old or that exotic. If you took someone to the park and told them it was built in 1990 they wouldn't have any reason to disbelieve you. The styles of the picnic pavilions, and that there are some awkwardly placed buildings that obscure Kiddieland from the main midway, would be about all that might give it away.

From what we heard of the park we were kind of expecting it to evoke Conneaut Lake Park to us. Clementon as it stands now might be a glimpse of the Brightest Timeline fate of Conneaut Lake, as the park was bought (in 2007) by Adrenaline Family Entertainment and then (in 2011) by Premier Attractions Management (which also operates Denver's New Elitch Gardens), and the place looks fresh-painted, open, pretty nicely kept. Several times over we mentioned that if they could buy Casino Pier's carousel then ... well, that'd be almost the best we could realistically hope for. So, yes, we found the park quite nice to be at.

Trivia: In its first months of aluminum production in 1888, Alcoa was able to make about fifty pounds of the metal per day. Two decades later it had to ship about 88,000 pounds per day to keep with demand. Source: The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales Of Madness, Love, and the History of the World From The Periodic Table of the Elements, Sam Kean.

Currently Reading: Empires Of The Word: A Language History Of The World, Nicholas Ostler.

Tags: amusement parks, casino pier farewell tour, clementon park

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