$380,000 raised toward reviving Enchanted Forest

$1.2 million needed for park, group says

April 26, 2000|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

Friends of The Enchanted Forest have about $380,000 of the $1.2 million they estimate is needed to reopen the once-popular Ellicott City amusement park for young children.

Rick Lepski, chairman of the grass-roots organization, said yesterday that the group has about $160,000 worth of in-kind donations -- such as landscaping services -- and about $220,000 in pledges from corporate sponsors.

The group expects to get the rest of the money from fund-raisers and grants. Members have asked the county to contribute, although county officials have not included funding in the proposed budget for next year.

Lepski said the group hopes to reopen Enchanted Forest next spring.

"We're definitely trying to retain as much as possible of what's there," said Barbra Viall, the group's co-chairwoman. "Our goal [is] to save this historic place and make it something the community can be proud of, rather than an eyesore."

About 560 people have volunteered to help get the park up and running again, Lepski said.

Enchanted Forest, which opened in 1954, provided dozens of fairy-tale scenes -- including Cinderella's castle -- for children 10 and younger in a wooded setting off U.S. 40.

It closed in 1989, reopened briefly in the 1990s -- minus the rides that were there earlier -- and then closed again.

Friends members believe they can make the park a success by keeping the storybook theme but adding low-key rides, like child-powered "coal cars."

"We're going to keep the structures," Lepski said. "Any new rides will be themed to bring out the nostalgia of the park."

In a meeting last night attended by about a dozen people, most of them members of Friends, Lepski said the group estimates that about 100,000 people would visit the park during the first year it is reopened.

"I think that's pretty conservative," he said. "We're going to pull [visitors] from other parts of the state."

The park would be open from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day, and on selected days throughout the year.

A one-day pass would cost $8 per child, Lepski said. The group is not planning to charge admission for parents. Rides would be free, with refreshments, games and merchandise for sale.

Friends estimates first-year revenues of $400,000 from food, $75,000 from games, and $90,000 from merchandise.

"One of the problems with the park that existed before is they attempted to exist just on gate revenue," said Scott Waters, a Friends member who once worked for Adventure World and what is now known as Six Flags.

"You need to have food, games merchandise."

Lepski projects that the park will lose almost $11,000 in its first year, and will need four full-time employees and 150 to 200 seasonal workers.

The Friends group does not have an agreement with Mid-Atlantic Realty Trust, which owns the amusement park. Lepski said the group is in "very quiet negotiations" with the Lutherville company to lease or otherwise use the property.

Some people think there's a market for Enchanted Forest.

Two Lime Kiln Middle School sixth-graders, Sarah Nyanjom and Samantha Britton, surveyed about 250 people in February and March and found that nearly all wanted the park reopened. About 225 said they would visit.

Viall said the attraction for many of the people pushing to reopen the park is that they visited it as children, and would like their children or grandchildren to be able to do so.

"They're disappointed that they can't share that experience," Viall said.

"It's not major technology and fancy rides," she said. "It's just a small-scale, quiet park, and there's not a lot of that available today."

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