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Photo via Abandoned But Not Forgotten

When Action Park opened its doors the summer of 1978 in Vernon, NJ, parent company Great American Recreation had no idea the dubious fame the park would garner. What began as a way to utilize the Vernon Valley/Great Gorge skiing area during the summer led to one of the first modern water parks, a few years of booming business and unfortunately the deaths of six people and its subsequent closing.

Action-Park-Tube-Slide-Untapped-CitiesPhoto via Abandoned But Not Forgotten

Action Park began as a few speed water slides along the slopes of what is now the Mountain Creek ski resort. The small park saw good business and grew throughout the early 1980s, incorporating an infamous Alpine Slide in its Alpine Area, a Motor World and Waterworld, eventually swelling to 75 rides, in total in addition to pools. At its height, it saw nearly a million visitors a year.

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Original Action Park TV spot, via Something Interesting

However, the park’s tagline, “There’s nothing in the world like Action Park” soon became morbidly true. The first death occurred on July 8th, 1980 when a 19 year-old park employee’s car jumped off the track of the Alpine Slide. The Slide itself had already garnered a degree of notoriety: its concrete and fiberglass construction led to countless abrasions and the cars it used had ineffective speed control. The feature alone was responsible for most of the accidents, lawsuits and 40% of the park’s citations in addition to 14 fractures and 26 head injuries (those actually reported).

Action-Park-Slide-Untapped-CitiesPhoto via Abandoned But Not Forgotten

Business actually grew for two years after the first death, as the owners and staff pushed for their angle of guest control–that is, guests were directly responsible for their experience, such as controlling their cars or entering a wave pool. The local emergency room said that during this span, they’d see five to ten guests of the park a day while the park paid for additional ambulances for the hospital.

Action-Park-Broken-Games-Untapped-CitiesPhoto via Abandoned But Not Forgotten

The second and third deaths happened within a week together and were the beginning of Action Park’s downfall. On July 24th, 1982 a 15 year-old guest drowned in the wave pool while on August 1st a 27 year-old man was tipped from his canoe. When he tried to re-enter, his foot touched a grate that was electrified by an exposed wire–called a “knick” by management–injuring his family and sending him into cardiac arrest. Ownership claimed these events were “statistically insignificant” on the park’s injury and death rate.

Action-Park-Funnel-Slide-Untapped-CitiesPhoto via Abandoned But Not Forgotten

The park closed the ride permanently and continued business, until in 1984 two more deaths occurred, one from a guest having a heart attack on the Tarzan Swing and another young guest (20 years-old) drowning in the wave pool. The park limped forward, even as an 18 year-old also drowned in the wave pool in 1987. A growing reputation for fatally dangerous rides and mounting personal injury lawsuits forced Great American Recreation into bankruptcy in 1995. Action Park closed on Labor Day, 1996.

Action-Park-Guest-Services-Untapped-CitiesPhoto via Abandoned But Not Forgotten

Action Park was reopened as Mountain Creek Waterpark on June 15th, 1998, though much of the old rides were torn down or left abandoned. Through ownership changes, sweeping refurbishment and stricter adherence to update New Jersey laws regarding amusement parks, the park stayed open, and on April 1st, 2014 it was announced it would be named Action Park once again. Apparently no joke, the park continues to operate on a smaller scale and many of the old fixtures of the original park are still visible.

Action-Park-Pond-Untapped-CitiesPhoto via Abandoned But Not Forgotten

Action-Park-Dining-Area-Untapped-CitiesPhoto via Abandoned But Not Forgotten

The author can be reached via Twitter @jimipage26

2 Comments

  1. pw says:

    No, Mountain Creek water park owns it.

  2. dann says:

    is this property for sell??

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