Action Park was a
waterpark/motor themed park open from 1978 to 1996 in Vernon Township, New Jersey, on the property of the former Vernon Valley / Great Gorge ski area, today Mountain Creek. It featured three separate attraction areas: an alpine slide; Motoworld, where patrons could operate motorized vehicles on land and water; and Waterworld, with many water-based attractions such as waterslides. The latter was one of the first American waterparks.Arthur Levine, About.com; "The Action is back at Mountain Creek", http://themeparks.about.com/cs/waterparks/a/mountaincreek_2.htm]
Its popularity went hand in hand with a reputation for poorly-designed, unsafe rides; inattentive, underaged, underpaid and sometimes under-the-influence employeesAustin, Joanne; October 2005, "Revisiting Traction ... Er, "Action", Park," "
Weird NJ", 22.] ; equally intoxicated and underprepared visitors — and the poor safety record that followed from this perfect stormof circumstances. At least six people are known to have died as a result of mishaps on rides at the park, and it was nicknamed "Traction Park",Austin, Joanne, "op. cit.", 20-24.] "Accident Park",Jersey Ed; May 2006; "We Called it Accident Park" in "The Reaction to Traction at Action Park"; "Weird NJ", 28.] " Class ActionPark", "Danger Park" and "Death Park" by doctors at nearby hospitals due to the number of severely injured parkgoers they treated. While 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. The new owner of the ski area has reopened the water attractions as Mountain Creek Waterpark, with a vastly increased emphasis on ride safety.
The park was born in the mid-1970s 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.Austin, "op. cit.", 20]
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, Motoworld 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, including 35 motorized self-controlled rides and 40 waterslides.
GAR promoted its new attraction with
television commercials in the New York metropolitan area, using the memorable jingle"The action never stops ... at Action Park!" (later, "There's nothing in the world like Action Park!" in several-part harmonyThe Digital Millennium Copyright Actforbids linking directly to this video at the moment, but entering "Action Park" as a search string at YouTube will bring it up.] ). 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 resort led to a 110-count
grand jury indictmentagainst the nine related companies that ran the resort and their executives for operating an unauthorized insurancecompany.McKay, Martha; May 12, 2005; [http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXkyJmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk2NjkyNjgy Ultimate wine snob] ; " New Jersey Herald", retrieved August 27, 2006.] Many took pretrial intervention to avoid prosecution; head Eugene Mulvihill pled guilty that November to five insurance fraud-related charges.New Jersey State Commission of Investigation, date not given, [http://www.state.nj.us/sci/pdf/hist6.pdf#search=%22%22Eugene%20Mulvihill%22%22 "Concrete Results: Ensuring Justice, Saving Taxpayers' Money"] , 47, retrieved August 27, 2006.] 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.Austin, "op. cit.", 24]
Park officials said this made the injury and death rate statistically insignificant. Nevertheless, the director of the
emergency roomat 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.
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
recessionearly in that decade reduced visitation. GAR was finally forced into bankruptcy in 1995, and Action Park closed at the end of the season as usual on September 2, 1996. It was assumed that it would reopen on Memorial Day weekend of 1997. Due to the problems in getting proper insurance, the park was unable to open at that point. They delayed the opening to mid June, but that date came and went and the opening was announced for the 4th of July weekend. By the end of June, however, it was determined that the park would not be open for the season. Therefore, the last day of operation was on Labor Dayof 1996.
Many of Action Park's attractions were unique. They gave patrons more control over their experience than they would have at most other amusement parks' rides, but for the same reason were considerably riskier.
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.Gethard, Chris; October 2005, "Brothers in Wounded Arms (And Legs) Serving Together at Action Park," "Weird NJ", 23.]
The tracks themselves were made of
concreteand 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.
sleds themselves 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."
This slide led to the first fatality at the park, a
head injurysuffered by an employee (it would later be referred to as the "Death Express"). 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 the years 1984 and 1985 the alpine slide produced 14 fractures and 26 head injuries. 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.
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 6of that year, the day before the park closed for the season, as that year's Labor Daywas 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.
skateboardpark 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 an article 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."Fergus, Tom; May 2006; "Another Action Park Employee Spills His Guts", in "The Reaction to Traction at Action Park"; "Weird NJ", 29.]
Grass skiingwas available the same summer the skate park was open. Grass Skiing was on the beginner and intermediate slopes under the Brown chairlift.
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
condominiumhousing development. Several types of vehicles were used in this area:
*Super Go Karts: The karts were meant to be driven around a small loop track at a speed of about 20 mph (32 km/h) set by the governor devices on them. But park employees knew how to circumvent the governors by wedging
tennis balls into them, and were known to do so for parkgoers. As a result, an otherwise standard small-engine car ride became a chance to play bumper carsat 50 mph (80 km/h), and many injuries resulted from head-on collisions.Austin, "op. cit.", 21-22.]
The engines were not well-maintained, and some riders were overcome by gas fumes as they drove.
*LOLA cars: These were miniature open-cockpit race cars on a longer track. Extra money was charged to drive them, and they, too, could be adjusted for speed by knowledgeable park employees, with similarly harmful consequences to riders.
*Bumper boats: This ride was reserved for
toddlers, supposedly since it was safer, but the engines often leaked gas, at least once requiring medical attention for one rider when too much got on his skin.
*Super Speedboats: These were set up in a small pond, known by staff to be heavily infested with
snakes. They were supposed to be driven around a small island in the middle at 35-40 mph (51-59 km/h). While, unlike the land vehicles, there was no way to tamper with them and increase their speed, many riders nonetheless used them to play bumper boat, and one seriously inebriated rider (Robert Donohue) had to be rescued by the attendant lifeguardafter his boat capsized following a collision.
chainlinkfence-enclosed area, small tanks could be driven around for a fee for five minutes at a time, with tennis ball cannons that enabled riders to shoot at a sensorprominently mounted on each tank. If hit, the tank stopped operating for 15 seconds, while other tankers often took advantage of the delay to pepper the stricken vehicle with more fire.
Visitors on the outside could also join in the fun through less costly cannons mounted on the inside of the fence. When workers had to enter the cage to attend to a stuck or crashed tank, which usually happened several times a day, they were often pelted with tennis balls from every direction despite prohibitions against such behavior that could result in expulsion from the park. It is not known if this resulted in any serious injuries, but it made the tank ride the least popular place to work in the park.
The "space shot" attraction was fairly safe. It was a tower drop up and down ride, common in many amusement parks today. This attraction was open in 1996 and again in 1998 (under Mountain Creek management). It was sold at the end of the 1998 season.
Bungee Jumping Tower
The bungee jumping tower was a tower where guests would bungee jump as they were strapped to a cord and released to a huge, soft blow-up mat at the end of their ride. This was open from the late 1980s until 1996.
A bungee cord ride in which two riders sat in a seat and were strapped in while the ride was shot up in the air and supported by a bungee cord. Riders looped upside down. There are a few similar rides still standing in a handful of major amusement parks, the most common name being the Slingshot found at many
Six Flagsparks, but they are upcharge attractions (an additional charge to admission) due to insurance issues. At Action Park, the extra fee was only $5. This particular ride was open from 1993 to 1995. "We often wondered how many whiplash cases came out of that ride", one former employee recalled.
Water-based attractions made up half of the park's rides and accounted for the greatest share of its casualty count. Many are still in existence today, with much greater attention to safety, as Mountain Creek Water Park.
*The Tidal Wave Pool: The first patron death occurred here in 1982; another visitor would drown in this common water-park attraction five years later. It was, however, the number of people the
lifeguards saved from a similar fate that made this the only Waterworld attraction to gain its own nickname, "The Grave Pool." Austin, "op. cit.", 21.] It was 100 feet wide by 250 feet long (30.5 by 76 m) and could hold 500 to 1,000 people. Waves were generated for 20 minutes at a time with 10-minute intervals between them, and could reach as much as 40 inches (102 cm) in height.
It was not always obvious that pool depth increased as one got closer to the far end, and there were patrons who only remembered or realized that they couldn't swim when they were in over their heads and the waves were going full blast. Even those who could swim well didn't realize that the waves, as
fresh water, were not as buoyant as their oceancounterparts and sometimes exhausted themselves doing more swimming than they were ready for. Crowding at the side ladders developed as the waves began, leading to many accidents.
Twelve lifeguards were on duty at all times, and on high-traffic weekends they were known to rescue as many as 30 people, compared to the one or two the average lifeguard might make in a typical season at a pool or
*The Kayak Experience: After the second visitor death in the park's history in 1982 occurred at this ride, it was closed permanently. It was an imitation
whitewatercourse that used submerged electric fans to agitate the water above. Frequently the kayaks got stuck or tipped over, and people had to get out of them to remedy the situation.
*The Tarzan Swing: This was a steel arch hanging from a 20-foot-long (6 m)
cableover a spring-fed pool. Patrons waited in long lines for the chance to hang from it, swing out over the water, then jump off as the beam reached its height.
Some patrons hung on too long and scraped their toes on the concrete at the far side. Others used the ride properly, but then were surprised to find out the water underneath was very cold. It was cold enough, in fact, that the lifeguards had to rescue people on some occasions who were so surprised by the sudden chill they couldn't swim out. In 1984, one man died from a heart attack after experiencing the swing. This ride is still open today.
*Roaring Rapids: This was a standard raft-based whitewater ride. Reports the park filed with the state in 1984 noted fractured
femurs, collar bones, noses and dislocated knees and shoulders. This attraction is still open. The left side is known as The Gauley and riders use a single tube. The right side is known as Thunder Run and is a double tube rafting ride.
*Surf Hill: This ride, common to other water parks at the time, allowed patrons to slide down a water-slick sloped surface on mats into small puddles, until they reached a foam barrier after an upslope at the end. Barriers between lanes were minimal, and people frequently collided with each other on the way down, or at the end. The seventh lane was known as the "back breaker," due to its special kicker two-thirds of the way down intended to allow jumps and splashdowns into a larger puddle.
Employees at the park used to like eating at a nearby
snack barwith a good view of the attraction, since it was almost guaranteed that they could see some serious injuries, lost bikinitops, or both. Mountain Creek kept this attraction open through 2005.
*Super Speed Water Slides: These were two water slides, set slightly apart from the rest of the park, that took advantage of nearly vertical slopes to allow riders to attain higher speeds than usually possible. One started with riders going almost vertically downwards and was covered with screening for the first several feet.
As barriers on the side of the slides were very low, lifeguards reminded every user to remain flat on their back with their arms at the side as they descended since there was no way to ride it otherwise and stay on. The fall from both slides had the potential for very serious injury.
Those who made it to the bottom found their progress arrested by water, which made a large splash, and then a small pool. The speed at which riders met the end resulted in many getting
wedgies and enemas from the experience.
*Diving cliffs: The area around Roaring Rapids was (and still is) laid out like a kind of
grotto, with many lower-intensity attractions. One was a pair of diving cliffs — one 23 feet (7 m), the other 18 feet (5.4 m) — above a 16-foot (5 m) deep pool.
However, the pool below was not blocked off from those who might be swimming in or away from from other attractions, and nothing at water level gave any indication to swimmers that they could expect people to dive in right next to them or right on top of them. The sole lifeguard on duty often had his or her hands full dealing with the results of those collisions.
Also, nonswimmers would jump off the cliffs, not fully appreciating how deep the water below was, and have to be rescued. Former employee Tom Fergus says the bottom of the pool was eventually painted white to make it easier to spot any bodies on the bottom. The large pool into which people jumped is no longer used for regular swimming, only to deposit used tubes.
*Colorado River Ride: The Colorado River Ride, which still exists, winds its way down a heavily wooded area on the side of the park. It used to feature large, circular
rafts that people had to carry from the splash pool to the start. The "river" is actually a large trough made to look like a natural river bed.
The ride started out at a slow pace around a couple of turns, but then become far more challenging. Since the river is on a steady pitch down the hill, the rafts gained speed very quickly. Sudden turns would send the rafts up the walls. Riders who were not holding on would sometimes fall out onto the steep surrounding terrain. A rider recounted to "
Weird NJ" how a friend's mother suffered a broken nose when their raft was thrown into a rock wall.Shpunder, Greg; May 2006; "Action Park Designed to Hurt People" in "The Reaction to Traction at Action Park"; "Weird NJ", 28.]
At one point the rafts would come to a fork where they could either head into a tunnel, or (less frequently) around a corner into an unknown section of river. The tunnel had many turns and was dark. Inside the tunnel were jagged rocks, which could cause cuts or scrapes if riders placed their hands out. At the exit, rafts commonly struck a curved wall with great force. The raft then floated into a small rock pool and stayed there until it found its way out. The final stretch of the river consisted of a large downhill portion complete with bumps, and a foot-high (30 cm) jump where the rafts would momentarily catch air and then slam back onto the surface.
Waterworld also featured the Aerodium, a
vertical wind tunnelthat allowed riders to hover in the air without any type of restraints. Riders wearing a special skydiving suit, helmet, and earplugs would join the bodyflightinstructor 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. Stadium seating encircled the perimeter of the Aerodium, allowing friends and spectators to watch riders fly. The fee to fly in the Aerodium (in 1996) was $7 per person.
Waterworld also boasted standard pools and rides for children that were sometimes smaller versions of the main attractions at the park.
Miniature golf course
One of Action Park's safer attractions was a miniature golf course. Still, the course was known to have problems with snakes due to the nearby wooded area. The remnants of the course still exist today, although it has been abandoned and is now overgrown.
The Aqua Scoot was a slide where the patron was placed on a solid plastic sled and pushed down the slide made of rollers like you would find at an assembly plant or newspaper distributor. It would place the rider into a pool where they would skip across the water like a skipping stone. The rider was expected to hold themselves in an upright position while their sled sped down a steep descent. Many times the rider would find themselves unable to maintain their grip on the sled's handles and find themselves lying flat on the sled while the back of their head was making contact with the rollers. Many patrons who could not speak English were unable to comprehend the announcements and warnings provided by employees stressing the necessity to keep your weight forward and maintain a tight grip on the handles. The patrons' inability to follow these directions resulted in numerous severe head lacerations weekly. There were also some rare occurrences where a patron's hair became entangled in the rollers when their head made contact with the rollers. If the rider found themselves fortunate enough to make it down the descent unharmed, they were not out of harm's way yet. If the plastic sled the rider was on was facing any direction off center, the sled would, instead of skipping, fling the rider off upon impact into the water. Or the sled would veer sharply to the right or the left upon impact with the water. At times, this led to the patron on the veering sled colliding with other patrons whose ride had finished and were in the process of walking their sleds out of the water.
The looping water slide
The one ride that has come to symbolize Action Park and its extreme thrill-seeking was, paradoxically, 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.See picture on [http://www.ultimaterollercoaster.com/forums/cgi/forum1.cgi?read=153156 this discussion thread] ] Employees have reported they were offered hundred-dollar bills to test it. "It didn't buy enough booze to drown out the memory", said Fergus.
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. One worker told a local
newspaperthat "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 was opened had been dismembered. A rider also reportedly got stuck at the top of the loop due to insufficient water pressure, and a hatchhad to be built at the bottom of the slope to allow for future extrications.
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 did ride 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.Braybrook, Steve; May 2006; "A Survivor from Action Park Writes In", in "The Reaction to Traction at Action Park"; "Weird NJ", 29.]
For the remainder of the park's existence, it remained visible near the entrance of Waterworld, tempting visitors with the possibility of the thrilling ride it might have offered yet tempering it with the high potential for injury that was just as obvious from looking at it.
The slide was dismantled shortly after Action Park closed and has never been rebuilt;
as of 2008, no additional looping waterslides have opened at any parks. However, since 2002, the Swiss company Klarer Freizeitanlagen AGhas been working on a safe design for a looping waterslide and have now built and tested a 1:1 prototype of their design. [http://freizeitparkweb.de/cgi-bin/dcf/dcboard.cgi?az=show_thread&om=264&forum=DCForumID74&viewmode=all] [http://www.eap-magazin.de/index.php?id=127&L=1]
Factors contributing to the park's safety record
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.
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
physicsor engineering. "They seemed to build rides," one attendee recalls, "not knowing how they would work, and [then let] people on them."Callan, Matthew; Nov. 22, 2000, [http://www.freezerbox.com/archive/article.php?id=235 In Memoriam: Action Park] , "Freezerbox".]
GAR, as its legal troubles would suggest, has been 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 imitators. 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
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.DeSaye, Jim; May 2006; "From Former Vermin Valley Great Gorge Manager" in "The Reaction to Traction at Action Park"; "Weird NJ", 29.]
Most were area residents making
minimum wageor just barely above that, given little training (other than lifeguards) for their jobs, and who consequently often cared little for enforcing park rules and safety requirements, except for occasions when it gave them the chance to contemptuously rip off a visitor's wristbandin plain sight of others.Fact|date=July 2008 Height- and weight-based restrictions were often ignored.
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, particularly northeastern New Jersey. Many of them were often from lower-income neighborhoods where they had few, if any, opportunities to swim, much less learn how. At the park they 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 nor was any written information made available in that language.
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.
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
exhibitionismas people jumped off the swing in full view of the whole line behind them.
There was also an undercurrent of violence at Action Park. Former
UFCWelterweight champion Matt Serraadmitted to a near brawl at Action Park in the 90's. [http://www.sherdog.com/news/articles.asp?n_id=10325]
Availability of alcohol on grounds
The park also sold
beerin many kiosks on the grounds, with similarly lax enforcement of the drinking age as with other restrictions in the park. Doctors treating the injured often reported that many of them had alcohol on their breath.
Lax regulatory climate
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.
It was not an unreasonable question. In addition to its then-recent shenanigans that had led to the SCI investigation and indictments, Mulvihill was a well-connected local developer. The company was a major employer in a rural and remote region of the state.
Some of the state's regulations failed to adequately address the situation, too. 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, and nothing else.
Six people are known to have died directly or indirectly from rides at Action Park:
July 8, 1980, a 19-year-old park employee was riding the alpine slide when his car jumped the track and his head struck a rock, killing him. [http://www.rideaccidents.com/rides.html Amusement Ride Fatalities 1972-1997] at rideaccidents.com, retrieved January 12, 2006.]
July 24 1982, a 15-year-old boy drowned in the Tidal Wave Pool. [http://www.rideaccidents.com/water.html Water Ride Fatalities 1972-1997] at rideaccidents.com, retrieved January 12, 2006.] [cite web
publisher = New York Times
title = Brooklyn Man Drowns in Pool At a Jersey Amusement Park
accessdate = 2006-08-26 ]
*A week later, on
August 1, a 27-year-old man from Long Islandgot out of his tipped kayakon the Kayak Experience to right it. He was electrocuted when he stepped on a grate that was either in contact with, or came too close to, a section of wiring for the underwater fans that was exposed. Several other members of his family nearby were also injured. He was taken to a hospital in nearby Warwick, New York where he died later of heart failure from the electric shock.
The park at first disputed that the
electric currentcaused his death, saying there were no burns on his body, but the coronerresponded that burns generally do not occur in a water-based electrocution.
The ride was drained and closed for the investigation. Accounts differed as to the extent of the exposed wiring: the park said it was "just a nick," while others said it was more like 8 inches (20 cm). The state's Labor Department found that the fan was properly maintained and installed and cleared the park of wrongdoing; however it also said the current had the possibility to cause bodily harm under certain circumstances. While the park said it was vindicated, it never reopened the ride, saying people would be afraid to go on it afterwards.
*In 1984, a fatal heart attack suffered by one visitor was unofficially believed to have been triggered by the shock of the cold water in the pool beneath the Tarzan Swing. The water on the Tarzan Swing and in that swimming area was 50-60 °F (10-16 °C) while other water areas were in the 70-80 °F (21-27 °C) range more typical of swimming pools. The Tarzan swing and the cannon ball ride in this area were operated by spring water.
August 27of that year, a 20-year-old from Brooklyndrowned in the Wave Pool. [cite web
publisher = New York Times
title = 18-Year-Old Drowns At Amusement Park
accessdate = 2006-08-26 ]
While many of the water rides still exist, extensively renovated by
Intrawest, which bought the ski area in 1998 and decided the next year to reopen them as Mountain Creek Waterpark, it is no longer the state's largest water park nor quite the draw it once was. Other waterparks have been built in and near 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 English units and the age it is most appropriate for, as well as their state regulatory ID numbers. Safety rules are strictly enforced at the new park, and alcohol sales have been curtailed on the grounds. Today Mountain Creek is managed by
Action Park as it was is now a fond memory, a cultural touchstone for many
Generation Xers who grew up in North and Central Jersey. A popular list of "You Know You're from New Jersey When ..." that circulates in
Some even credit the park for making them learn some difficult lessons. In 2000, one, Matthew Callan, recalled Action Park thusly:
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.Chris Gethard, a writer for "
Weird NJ" and the associated book series, concurs:
Action Park was a true
rite of passagefor 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.
Rock band Shellac named their 1994 debut album "
At Action Park".
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- the park and resort now on the Action Park site
* [http://www.weirdnj.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=39&Itemid=28 Action Park History, Recollections, News Articles and Photos from Weird NJ]
* [http://www.abandonedbutnotforgotten.com/action_park.htm Pictures of Action Park abandoned] at abandonedbutnotforgotten.com, published May 13, 2006
* [http://www.domainofdeath3.com/actionpark.php Narrative description] of Action Park
* [http://thecenteroftheaction.blogspot.com/ The Center of the Action] , blog by former Action Park employees
* [http://lifeinabungalo.com/2006/02/21/an-interview-with-an-action-park-employee/ Interview] with a former Action Park employee
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