Owner of Enchanted Forest in Ellicott City seems receptive to reviving children's park

`Friends' organization meets with executive

April 06, 1999|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

The company that owns Enchanted Forest on U.S. 40 in Ellicott City is apparently open to reviving the abandoned children's theme park.

Rick Lepski, co-chairman of a grass-roots organization called Friends of the Enchanted Forest, said he was encouraged by his hourlong meeting a week ago with Pat Hughes, chief executive of Mid-Atlantic Realty Trust (MART), a Linthicum company that has owned the amusement park and the shopping center adjacent to it since June 1997.

"We seem to be all headed in the same direction," Lepski said yesterday. "I found [Hughes] to be extremely receptive to get the project done."

Hughes has reportedly offered to take several Friends members on a walking tour of the park tomorrow and has agreed to attend a public meeting April 22 at Cafe Bagel in the Lynwood Square shopping center in Ellicott City.

Hughes did not return telephone requests for an interview. MART officials have been virtually silent on the local effort to reopen the park, which began two months ago.

The park closed in 1989 and briefly reopened in 1994 before closing again.

One group that could pose a hurdle is the more than 20 homeowners who live behind Enchanted Forest on Green Forest Court and Woodstream Lane and have grown accustomed to the tranquillity of their neighborhood.

"I would be totally against electric rides," said Michael Berwanger, who has lived on Green Forest Court for more than 20 years. "Nobody's going to want it real loud with lights at night."

Lepski pledged to contact homeowners who live next to the park.

"We do not want to be confrontational," he said. "We will do whatever it takes to placate them."

Lepski and Friends member Scott H. Waters of Columbia, a former consultant for Adventure World, met with Hughes last week at Lepski's request. Hughes expressed concern about overcoming county-imposed hurdles, according to Lepski.

"I guess what he's afraid of -- and what everyone else is afraid of -- is that the county will drag its feet when it comes to getting things approved," Lepski said. "But I think that the county wants this. I don't perceive them to be a problem."

Officials from the county Department of Recreation and Parks have said they would assist any effort, but would not operate the theme park because they are not in the amusement park business.

Lepski said the Friends group has determined that it would cost about $900,000 to renovate the park and to add four new electric-powered rides. He also said Hughes would like to add several retail carts to sell park-related merchandise and other items.

Between 1954 and 1989, Enchanted Forest was a crowd-pleaser for preschool and elementary-school-age children too small or too scared to enjoy the heart-stopping rides at larger theme parks.

At Enchanted Forest, children could celebrate birthdays in Cinderella's Castle, lunch in the Mother Goose picnic area and climb Robinson Crusoe Mountain before descending on a water slide.

The park closed in 1989, a year after Towson-based JHP Development Inc. persuaded the county Zoning Board to rezone a parcel for the Enchanted Forest shopping center, which opened in 1992.

Two months ago, Ellicott City activist Barbara Sieg wrote a letter in a local newsletter urging participants who remembered the park to resurrect it.

Lepski said he received 65 e-mails last week from people volunteering their time and memories to the effort. Friends members are working on fund raising and obtaining nonprofit status for the organization, Lepski said.

"It's definitely a very positive feeling," he said.

Pub Date: 4/06/99

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