Action Park

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Action Park
Action Park logo.png
Slogan

There's Nothing in the World Like Action Park!
The Action never stops...at Action Park!

Action Park, Action Park the world's largest water park!
The Biggest Hit in the Nation! [Tannersville, PA]
LocationVernon, New Jersey, U.S.
Coordinates41°11′26″N 74°30′27″W / 41.19056°N 74.50750°W / 41.19056; -74.50750
OwnerVernon Valley/Great Gorge Ski Resort
OpenedMay 26, 1978
ClosedSeptember 8, 1996
Operating seasonMemorial DayLabor Day
 
Jump to: navigation, search
Action Park
Action Park logo.png
Slogan

There's Nothing in the World Like Action Park!
The Action never stops...at Action Park!

Action Park, Action Park the world's largest water park!
The Biggest Hit in the Nation! [Tannersville, PA]
LocationVernon, New Jersey, U.S.
Coordinates41°11′26″N 74°30′27″W / 41.19056°N 74.50750°W / 41.19056; -74.50750
OwnerVernon Valley/Great Gorge Ski Resort
OpenedMay 26, 1978
ClosedSeptember 8, 1996
Operating seasonMemorial DayLabor Day

Action Park was an amusement park located in Vernon, New Jersey, USA. The park was located on the grounds of what is now part of the Mountain Creek and Crystal Springs Resort ski areas in Vernon and was open from 1978 until 1996. Action Park was owned and operated by Great American Recreation.

It featured three separate attraction areas: an alpine slide, Motorworld, and Waterworld. The lattermost was one of the first American water parks.[1] Many of its attractions were unique, attracting thrillseekers from across the New York City metro area. The park's popularity went hand-in-hand with a reputation for poorly designed, unsafe rides; underaged, undertrained, and often under-the-influence staff;[2] intoxicated, unprepared visitors; and a consequently poor safety record.

At least six people are known to have died as a result of mishaps on rides at the park. It was given nicknames such as "Traction Park",[2] "Accident Park", and "Class Action Park"[3] by doctors at nearby hospitals due to the number of severely injured parkgoers they treated. Little action was taken by state regulators despite a history of repeat violations. In its later years personal-injury lawsuits forced the closure of more and more rides and finally the park itself in 1996.

Intrawest purchased the property and in 1998, many of the water attractions were reopened as Mountain Creek Waterpark. With a vastly increased emphasis on ride safety, the alpine slide and Motorworld areas were eliminated and some new water attractions were added. In 2010, the whole Mountain Creek ski area and waterpark was sold[4] to a group led by Eugene Mulvihill, the former operator of Great Gorge and Action Park.

Two offshoot locations were opened during the course of the 1980s, and were ran either by GAR directly, or through a subsidiary of GAR. One was located in Tannersville, PA,[5] called "Pocono Action Park and Motor World," the other was located in Pine Hill, NJ,[6] and was called Action Park its first year[7] before being renamed Action Mountain for the remainder of its operation. By the end of the 1980s, both locations were closed. Stony Point Recreation, the subsidiary of GAR that ran Action Mountain, owed $398,697 in back taxes to Pine Hill, and sold the park to pay off their debt.[8] It is uncertain what happened to the Pocono Action Park location.

History[edit]

The park was born in 1978 when Great American Recreation (GAR), new owners of the recently combined Vernon Valley/Great Gorge ski area, wanted to do something with the ski area during the off season. They followed the trend of many other ski areas at the time, and in 1977 began offering an alpine slide down very steep ski trails, then gradually put together Waterworld, one of North America's earliest water parks, at the base of the slopes.[2]

They started out with two speed waterslides in the summer of 1978, and then more waterslides and a small deep-water swimming pool the next year. The early 1980s saw more slides along with a huge wavepool. Finally, Motorworld was carved out of the swampy areas the ski area owned across Route 94. Ultimately, the small park consisting of the Alpine Slide and two speed slides evolved to a major destination with 75 rides (35 motorized self-controlled rides and 40 waterslides).[2]

GAR promoted its new attraction with television commercials in the New York metropolitan area, using the jingle "There's nothing in the world like Action Park!" in several-part harmony[9] (later, "The action never stops...at Action Park!"). The park soon became a popular summertime weekend destination in and of itself, due to the level of control it offered visitors over their experience compared with most other amusement parks. Some visitors were not even aware that it was part of a ski area.

Action Park's most successful years were the mid-1980s. Most rides were still open, and the park's later reputation for danger had not yet developed. In 1982, the deaths of two visitors within a week of each other and ensuing permanent closure of one ride took place, but that hardly dampened the flow of crowds.

The park's fortunes began to turn with two deaths in summer 1984 and the legal and financial problems that stemmed from the lawsuits. A state investigation of improprieties in the leasing of state land to the park led to a 110-count grand jury indictment against the nine related companies that ran it and their executives for operating an unauthorized insurance company.[10] Many took pretrial intervention to avoid prosecution; head Eugene Mulvihill pled guilty that November to five insurance fraud-related charges.[11] Still, attendance remained high and the park remained profitable, at least on paper. The park entertained over a million visitors a year, with as many as 12,000 coming on some of the busiest weekends.[2]

Park officials said this made the injury and death rate statistically insignificant. Nevertheless, the director of the emergency room at a nearby hospital said they treated from five to ten victims of park accidents on some of the busiest days, and the park eventually bought the township of Vernon extra ambulances to keep up with the volume.[2]

A few rides were closed and dismantled due to costly settlements and rising insurance premiums in the 1990s, and at last the park's attendance began to suffer as the recession early in that decade reduced visitation. GAR was finally forced into bankruptcy in 1995, and it operated with no insurance policy for its last several years in operation.

Action Park closed at the end of the season as usual on Labor Day, September 2, 1996. It was assumed that it would reopen on Memorial Day weekend of 1997 as usual.[2] However, the financial state of GAR continued to cast a pall over the operations of both Action Park and the Great Gorge ski resort. The park's opening was first pushed back to mid-June 1997, and then 4th of July weekend. These never came to pass, as GAR announced in July that it was shutting down its operations immediately, including the park.

Alpine attractions[edit]

Action Park Gladiator Challenge[edit]

This attraction, which was loosely based on the TV series American Gladiators, opened in 1992. It allowed patrons to compete against other patrons in an obstacle course, and against so-called "Action Park Gladiators" in jousting matches. Former bodybuilders Michael and Vince Mancuso ran the attraction, and were hired to design the attraction.[12] The "Action Park Gladiators" that patrons had to compete against in the jousting matches were picked by scouting local gyms. Over the course of the day, there were 3 shows. One at 1:00 PM, the second at 4:00PM, and the last at 6:00 PM, where the people with the fastest obstacle course times of the day were brought back to compete against each other.[12] This attraction had been removed from the park by 1995 and replaced with a beach volleyball court.

Alpine slide[edit]

Action Park's alpine slide descended the mountain roughly below one of the ski area's chairlifts, resulting in much verbal harassment and sometimes spitting from passengers going up for their turn, who would often be entertained by the accidents they witnessed while at the same time hoping to avoid similar fates.[13]

The tracks were made of concrete and fiberglass, which led to numerous serious abrasions on riders who took even mild spills. The tendency of some to ride in bathing suits so they could go on to Waterworld attractions afterwards made this problem worse.

The sleds were a large factor in the injuries. A stick that was supposed to control speed led, in practice, to just two options on the infrequently maintained vehicles: extremely slow, and a speed described by one former employee as "death awaits."[2]

This slide led to the first fatality at the park, a head injury suffered in 1980 by an employee whose sled ran off the track; he then fell down a large embankment and hit his head on a rock, which killed him. Hay bales at the curves were meant to cushion the impact of those whose sleds jumped the track (a frequent occurrence), but did not always do so effectively. According to state records, in 1984 and 1985 the alpine slide produced 14 fractures and 26 head injuries.[2] While park officials regularly asserted its safety, saying that 90-year-old grandmothers could and did ride it, in the early years of the park the slide was responsible for the bulk of the accidents, injuries, lawsuits, and state citations for safety violations.[2]

When Intrawest took over the park and renamed it Mountain Creek in spring 1998, they announced the slide would remain open for one final season. Riders were required to wear helmets and kneepads. The last day of the slide's operation was September 6 of that year, the day before the park closed for the season, as that year's Labor Day was rainy and the slide had to be closed.

The tracks were torn out afterwards, but the route can still be seen from the gondola that replaced the chairlift.[2] Mountain Creek recently introduced an "Alpine Coaster", which combines elements of the Alpine slide and a roller coaster.

Bungee jumping tower[edit]

Located near the Alpine slide for most of the second half of the park's existence was a tall tower which patrons, for a fee, could jump off of attached to bungee cords. The guests could not go very far, however, and were tethered to a weight that prevented them from bouncing back up to the top of the tower. This attraction closed with the park in 1996.

Skateboard park[edit]

A skateboard park briefly existed, near the ski area's ski school building, but closed due to poor design after a season. Bowls were separated by pavement, which in many cases did not meet the edges smoothly. Former park employee Tom Fergus was quoted in the magazine Weird NJ saying that the "skate park was responsible for so many injuries we covered it up with dirt and pretended it never existed."[14]

Grass skiing[edit]

Grass skiing was available the same summer the skate park was open. Grass Skiing was on the beginner and intermediate slopes under the Brown chairlift.

Motorworld[edit]

The park also had a section called Motorworld. It had powered vehicles and boats on the west side of Route 94. These closed with Action Park in 1996. They have been replaced with a condominium housing development, a restaurant, and additional parking for the Mountain Creek ski resort. Several types of vehicles were used in this area.

Land vehicles[edit]

Watercraft[edit]

Air rides[edit]

Waterworld[edit]

Water-based attractions made up half of the park's rides and accounted for the greatest share of its casualty count. Mountain Creek Waterpark still operates some of these attractions. In addition, there was also a miniature golf course as well as standard pools and rides for children. These were sometimes smaller, safer versions of the park's main attractions.

Cannonball Loop[edit]

The looping waterslide was only opened for brief periods in Action Park's existence.

The one ride that has come to symbolize Action Park and its extreme thrillseeking was almost never used.

In the mid-1980s GAR built an enclosed water slide, not unusual for that time, and indeed the park already had several. But for this one they decided to build, at the end, a complete vertical loop of the kind more commonly associated with roller coasters.[15] Employees have reported they were offered hundred-dollar bills to test it. Tom Fergus, who was "one of the idiots", said "$100 did not buy enough booze to drown out that memory."[14]

It was opened for one month in summer 1985 before it was closed at the order of the state's Advisory Board on Carnival Amusement Ride Safety, a highly unusual move at the time.[2] One worker told a local newspaper that "there were too many bloody noses and back injuries" from riders, and it was widely rumored, and reported in Weird NJ, that some of the test dummies sent down before it opened had been dismembered.[2] A rider also reportedly got stuck at the top of the loop due to insufficient water pressure, and a hatch had to be built at the bottom of the slope to allow for future extractions.[2]

The ride supposedly reopened a few more times over the years. In summer 1995 it opened for several days before a few more injuries forced another shutdown.

Those who rode it have said that more safety measures were taken than was otherwise common at the park. Riders were weighed and hosed down with cold water, required to remove jewelry, and then carefully instructed in how they had to position their bodies to complete the ride.[16]

For the remainder of the park's existence, it remained visible near the entrance of Waterworld. It was dismantled shortly after the park closed and has never been rebuilt.

Other notable water attractions[edit]

The Aerodium[edit]

Waterworld also featured the Aerodium, a vertical wind tunnel that allowed riders to hover in the air without any type of restraints. Stadium seating encircled the perimeter of the Aerodium, allowing friends and spectators to watch riders fly. Riders wearing a special skydiving suit, helmet, and earplugs would join the bodyflight instructor one by one on a trampoline-like netting directly over the fan. The instructor would grab each rider's wrists and guide the rider to fall forward, allowing the fan to loft the rider skyward. After a few seconds of flight, the attendant operating the fan would cut the power, causing the rider to fall onto the air cushions surrounding the fan. Park guests' flights were limited to a maximum of 6 or 7 feet (2 m) above the ground, approximately a foot or two over the instructor's head. The Aerodium also caused severe injuries, for example, when the rider instinctively tried to break his fall by extending his arm, which caused shoulder dislocation, severed nerves, and near-permanent paralysis of the arm.

Factors contributing to the park's safety record[edit]

A range of factors contributed to accidents at the park, from the design and construction of the rides themselves to the makeup of both visitors and staff, and infamously lax government oversight.

Ride design[edit]

Action Park and its defenders often pointed out that it was one of the first water parks in the nation and thus pioneered ideas that were later widely copied. This meant that visitors were using rides that had not been tested through practical use for very long. Ride designers may have had insufficient training in physics or engineering. "They seemed to build rides," one attendee recalled, "not knowing how they would work, and [then let] people on them."[18]

GAR, as its legal troubles would suggest, was accused of cutting corners to maximize its profits. For example, it was accused of building rides cheaply, sporadically maintaining many of them, and failing to renovate rides to take advantage of later safety improvements to its ideas made by other facilities. These practices may have taken place in a range of its operations, including customer safety (in the park's last year, it kept part of the ski area open despite being unable to obtain liability insurance).

Employees[edit]

The vast majority of workers at Action Park, at least the ones regularly seen by visitors, were teenagers. Jim DeSaye, a security director for the park, says he got that job at the age of 21, after having worked at the park for two years. His experience was not uncommon.[19]

Most were under aged, under trained, often under the influence and cared little for enforcing park rules and safety requirements. Height- and weight-based restrictions were often ignored.

Visitors[edit]

Since it was closer and slightly cheaper than Six Flags Great Adventure, Action Park attracted many visitors from the urban areas of the New York metropolitan area. Many of them were often from lower-income neighborhoods where they had few, if any, opportunities to swim, much less learn how. The park greatly overestimated these abilities, and this was a factor in many accidents as well as the drownings, according to park officials. DeSaye faults management's decision to broaden the customer base by advertising in Spanish-language media as contributing to the accident rate, since few employees spoke Spanish and no written information was made available in that language.[19]

The staff's indifference to many of the park's own rules led to a similarly lawless culture among riders, who generally liked the high level of control they had over their experience and felt that any accidents were the fault of the victims. A state official lamented that many waterslide accidents were caused by the victims themselves, who, in blatant violation of an explicitly posted rule, would often discard their mats midway down the slide and wait at a turn for their friends so they could go down together.[2]

Since many rides routed their lines so that those waiting could see every previous rider, many played to the audience with risky and bawdy behavior when it did finally come to be their turn. The Tarzan Swing in particular was known for outbursts of foul language (not always planned) and exhibitionism as people jumped off the swing in full view of the whole line behind them.[13]

Availability of alcohol on grounds[edit]

The park also sold beer in many kiosks on the grounds, with similarly relaxed enforcement of the drinking age as with other restrictions in the park. Doctors treating the injured often reported that many of them were intoxicated.[2][19]

Lax regulatory climate[edit]

Despite many citations for safety violations between 1979 and 1986, including allowing minors to operate some rides and failing to report accidents, which was unique among New Jersey's amusement parks, an investigation by the New Jersey Herald, Sussex County's main daily newspaper, later found that the park was fined only once. It was also unique in that department in that all the other amusement parks were fined for first offenses—except Action Park. It asked if there was some sort of special relationship between GAR and the state.[2]

Some of the state's regulations failed to adequately address the situation. After the 1987 drowning, it was reported that the Tidal Wave Pool was considered a pool by the state, not a ride. Under state regulations at the time, that meant that all the company had to do was keep the water clean and make sure that certified lifeguards were on duty.[2]

Fatalities[edit]

Six people are known to have died directly or indirectly from rides at Action Park:

Legacy[edit]

Action Park was a cultural touchstone for many Generation Xers who grew up in North and Central Jersey, as well as nearby locales in New York and Connecticut. A popular list of "You Know You're from New Jersey When ..." that circulates in email begins with, "You've been seriously injured at Action Park."[23]

Some even credit the park for making them learn some difficult lessons. In 2000, one, Matthew Callan, recalled Action Park thus:

Action Park made adults of a generation of Tri-State Area kids who strolled through its blood-stained gates, by teaching us the truth about life: it is not safe, you will get hurt a lot, and you'll ride all the way home burnt beyond belief.[18]

Chris Gethard, a writer for Weird NJ and the associated book series, concurs:

Action Park was a true rite of passage for any New Jerseyan of my generation. When I get to talking about it with other Jerseyans, we share stories as if we are veterans who served in combat together. I suspect that many of us may have come closest to death on some of those rides up in Vernon Valley. I consider it a true shame that future generations will never know the terror of proving their grit at New Jersey's most dangerous amusement park.[13]

On August 1, 1993, MTV's Headbanger's Ball taped an episode at the park. The host, Riki Rachtman, interviewed and went on the rides with the band Alice In Chains.

Mountain Creek Waterpark[edit]

Many of the water rides still exist with varying degrees of renovation by Intrawest, ranging from none at all to moderate. They bought the Vernon Valley ski area in 1998 and decided the next year to reopen the Waterworld section of Action Park as Mountain Creek Waterpark. However, it is no longer the state's largest water park nor is it quite the draw it once was. Other waterparks have been built in and around the region, dividing what was once an exclusive market.

New Jersey toughened its amusement regulations as a result of the Action Park experience. Rides at Mountain Creek, many of them built in Action Park's heyday, now boast large bilingual signs advising patrons of just what the ride entails, how deep the water is in metric and US customary units, the age it is most appropriate for, and the state regulatory ID numbers. Safety rules are strictly enforced at the new park, although alcohol is still available.

In 2010, Intrawest, which ended up in bankruptcy proceedings itself as a result of a leveraged buyout, sold both the Mountain Creek ski resort and the water park to the owners of Crystal Springs Resort. This returned control of the former Action Park property, as well as the entire former Vernon Valley/Great Gorge ski area, to the Mulvihill family as they had retained ownership of the ski area that was renamed Crystal Springs following GAR's bankruptcy.

Spinoff Locations[edit]

Pocono Action Park and Motorworld[edit]

In the early 1980s, Great American Recreation opened Pocono Action Park and Motorworld in the town of Tannersville, Pennsylvania. Like the Vernon, NJ counterpart, the park had a Waterworld section with slides and tube rides, as well as a Motorworld section featuring many of the same racing themed attractions including LOLA race cars and go-karts.[24] Today, the Tannersville outlet mall stands on the location where the park once stood.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Arthur Levine. "The Action is back at Mountain Creek". About.com. Retrieved August 29, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am Austin, Joanne; "Revisiting Traction ... Er, Action, Park," Weird NJ, October 2005, pages 20-24
  3. ^ a b Jersey Ed; May 2006; "We Called it Accident Park" in "The Reaction to Traction at Action Park"; Weird NJ, 28.
  4. ^ Perone, Joseph (May 27, 2010). "Mountain Creek resort in N.J. sold to developer Gene Mulvihill". The Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ: Advance Publications). Retrieved September 12, 2010. 
  5. ^ http://articles.philly.com/1989-07-07/news/26135301_1_water-slide-info-miniature-golf
  6. ^ "http://downthepike.courierpostonline.com/blog/2012/09/12/skiing-in-south-jersey-yes-and-not-so-long-ago/
  7. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=bZ6ScW5_Q2UC&pg=PA76&lpg=PA76&dq=%22action+mountain%22+%22Pine+Hill%22&source=bl&ots=j2x96vXHXP&sig=qldnXVn7Vuio0ESribUjpyq7DOg&hl=en&sa=X&ei=5eiMUsrMDdS2sAS0qoDgCg&ved=0CFcQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=%22action%20mountain%22%20%22Pine%20Hill%22&f=false" Images of America - Pine Hill, page 76
  8. ^ "http://articles.philly.com/1989-04-05/news/26142997_1_182-acre-site-single-family-home-or-townhouse-tax-rolls" Judge Approves Sale Of Action Mountain Site
  9. ^ The Digital Millennium Copyright Act forbids linking directly to this video at the moment, but entering "Action Park" as a search string at YouTube will bring it up.
  10. ^ McKay, Martha; May 12, 2005; Ultimate wine snob; New Jersey Herald, retrieved August 27, 2006.[dead link]
  11. ^ New Jersey State Commission of Investigation, date not given, Concrete Results: Ensuring Justice, Saving Taxpayers' Money, 47, retrieved August 27, 2006.
  12. ^ a b http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=9N5QAAAAIBAJ&sjid=UukMAAAAIBAJ&pg=1147,6299177&dq=action-park&hl=en
  13. ^ a b c d Gethard, Chris; October 2005, "Brothers in Wounded Arms (And Legs) Serving Together at Action Park," Weird NJ, 23.
  14. ^ a b c d Fergus, Tom; May 2006; "Another Action Park Employee Spills His Guts", in "The Reaction to Traction at Action Park"; Weird NJ, 29
  15. ^ See picture on this discussion thread
  16. ^ Braybrook, Steve; May 2006; "A Survivor from Action Park Writes In", in "The Reaction to Traction at Action Park"; Weird NJ, 29.
  17. ^ Shpunder, Greg; May 2006; "Action Park Designed to Hurt People" in "The Reaction to Traction at Action Park"; Weird NJ, 28.
  18. ^ a b Callan, Matthew; Nov. 22, 2000, In Memoriam: Action Park, Freezerbox.
  19. ^ a b c DeSaye, Jim; May 2006; "From Former Vermin Valley Great Gorge Manager" in "The Reaction to Traction at Action Park"; Weird NJ, 29.
  20. ^ a b c d e Water Ride Fatalities 1972-1997 at rideaccidents.com, retrieved January 12, 2006.
  21. ^ "Brooklyn Man Drowns in Pool At a Jersey Amusement Park". New York Times. August 27, 1984. Retrieved 2006-08-26. 
  22. ^ "18-Year-Old Drowns At Amusement Park". New York Times. July 20, 1987. Retrieved 2006-08-26. 
  23. ^ "You Know You're from New Jersey When ..." at inav.net, retrieved January 10, 2006.
  24. ^ "http://i.ebayimg.com/t/Vintage-POCONO-ACTION-PARK-and-Motor-World-1980s-2002-/00/s/MTYwMFg3MzA=/z/ldEAAOxyCSRSEBlJ/$T2eC16FHJG!FFmu4mPHgBSEBlJCovw~~60_57.JPG" Front, back, and inner pages to a Pocono Action Park tri-fold brochure

External links[edit]