Pumpkin coach returning to enchant Ellicott City

Theme park relic finds new home at area farm

Howard County

August 18, 2004|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SUN STAFF

Cinderella's pumpkin coach, which carried children through the now-defunct Enchanted Forest theme park in Ellicott City for 20 years, will soon make a final journey to a new home at a Howard County farm.

The bright-orange fiberglass pumpkin on wheels deteriorated for nearly a decade after the storybook-themed park closed for good in 1994. But in May, it was refurbished by volunteers, auctioned for charity and trucked to the garage of its present owners in Middle River.

Now business partners Scott Shepherd and Elby Proffitt believe they have found a better home for the coach at Clark's Elioak Farm, which offers a petting farm, pumpkin patch, hayrides and other family activities along Route 108 in Ellicott City.

"It will be very accessible to a lot of people in Ellicott City," said Martha Clark, the farm's owner. The coach will be under a pavilion, she said, so it will be protected, and as long as it is in good condition, visitors should be able to touch and sit in it.

Clark reached an agreement with the owners last week and declined to disclose the financial details. Proffitt said he and Shepherd donated the coach, for which they originally paid $2,300 to the charitable Realtors Outreach Fund.

Proffitt said a safe home for the pumpkin, where the public could enjoy it, was what he and Shepherd wanted all along. But their home inspection and environmental cleaning businesses did not offer many opportunities to display the item.

After receiving offers from several interested takers - and listing the coach on the eBay online auction site for a week to see what kind of bids they would get - the men decided that Clark offered the best solution.

"Kids will enjoy it," Proffitt said. "That was our whole intention."

The parties are working out when and how to get the coach to the farm. Clark said she plans to have it in place by the time the farm reopens for the fall Sept. 4.

The Enchanted Forest, which opened on U.S. 40 in 1955 and had 300,000 visitors a year at its peak, closed in 1988.

A shopping center was built on most of the property, but a few dozen storybook attractions remain on several acres behind a fence. It reopened for one season in 1994 but was not successful.

This spring, the property's owner, Kimco Realty Corp. of New Hyde Park, N.Y., donated the coach to the Coldwell Banker office at the shopping center. A spokesman said the company wanted to move the coach because it was outside the main fence and too accessible.

Volunteers from the real estate office rebuilt the structure, gave it new paint and seats and replaced the tires to get the coach ready for the office's annual charity auction.

Clark said that she has talked to Kimco about taking other pieces from the park, which she would be willing to refurbish and put on display.

"There are a lot of details involved," she said. But, she added, "I had a real positive conversation with them."

Kevin Allen, Kimco's director of retail and office properties, said in an e-mail that he had spoken to Clark. He said, "Kimco is new to the Enchanted Forest and we will continue to evaluate options." His company acquired the Enchanted Forest property when it bought Mid-Atlantic Realty Trust last year.

For now, many people seem happy that the coach will end up only a few miles from its original home.

"We are very happy that it is back in Howard County and at Clark's Farm, because children will have access to it again and be able to enjoy it again," said Monica McNew-Metzger of Annapolis, a member of the Enchanted Forest Preservation Society.

The group "ultimately would like to see [the park] reopened on site," McNew-Metzger said. But if that does not happen, she said, a safe home for the attractions would be much better than seeing them destroyed.

She and other supporters want the structures to be saved "so that children can use them again, and be inspired," she said. "It was just such a great place."

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