"The action never stops... at Action Park!"
Action Park (running from 1978 to 1996) was an especially infamous Theme Park, located in the town of Vernon in northwestern New Jersey. On paper, it seemed like a normal theme park, with an alpine slide, a ski area (it was part of the Vernon Valley/Great Gorge Ski Resort, now known as Mountain Creek), and two themed areas: Motorworld (based around vehicles) and Waterworld (a water park). Sounds good, right?
Well, much as in the case of Eva Dugan, the execution is where things went horribly wrong.
The rides were poorly designed and poorly maintained, leaving people seriously injured or sometimes dead. A total of six fatalities have been linked to the park. Most of the employees were undertrained, underage and under the influence. At best, the employees studiously ignored what little safety rules were in place, at worst they would egg on visitors to violate them and sit back to watch the ensuing carnage. The park advertised on Spanish-language radio stations in New York, yet most of its employees couldn't speak a word of Spanish and all of the signs and such were in English. Though it was a popular summertime destination for New Yorkers and New Jerseyans in the 1980s, legal and financial troubles, not just at Action Park but also at the ski resort and within the management, caused Action Park and Vernon Valley/Great Gorge to shut down after the 1996 season. The whole complex was later purchased by Intrawest in 1998 and reopened as Mountain Creek. The former Action Park became Mountain Creek Waterpark, its old rides having been either torn down or heavily renovated (with much better protection for the riders, obviously).
We could say more, but the Wikipedia article elaborates on it in much more depth, as well as this article from Weird NJ, the documentary The Most Insane Amusement Park Ever, and this blog run by former employees. Just know that they once attempted to build a looping water slide, and that it was actually open to the public for a brief period.
In April 2014, Mountain Creek's owners announced that they were officially opening for the summer season as Action Park, complete with a new looping slide. Fortunately, the Sudden Name Change was undone by management two years later, before it could do any lasting damage to the park's reputation or the bodily integrity of the guests.
Today the park is now named Mountain Creek Waterpark and is far safer than it was as Action Park.
Action Park provided examples of the following tropes:
- Amusement Park of Doom: One of the most infamous Real Life examples.
- Attack Its Weak Point: The tanks in the Tank Ride had these on their back.
- Awesome, but Impractical: The idea of a looping water slide sounded awesome on paper. Action Park heavily promoted the loop in its commercials as a unique attraction of the park. However, many guests got seriously injured by the ride. So many got stuck in the loop that they had to add an escape hatch.
- Bubblegloop Swamp: The speedboat and bumper boat rides were held in small, fetid ponds that were known to be infested with snakes.
- Callousness Towards Emergency: In the documentary Class Action Park, one former attendee recounts what he saw in the Tarzan Swing ride, in which a person hung on to swing rope, and and dropped about ten feet onto the pool bellow. Since the pool was spring fed, a person could go into shock going from 90 degree (F) heat to water that was at least 30 degrees (F) colder, and the crowd waiting their turn, upon seeing someone struggling to swim, or being fished out by a lifeguard, would point at them and scream "Pussy! You're a fucking pussy!"
- A former lifeguard recounts the time that she was sentenced to supervise the race boat pond (apparently that was least wanted position amongst the staff, and was seen as a punishment rather than just another assignment) one boat crashed onto another, and the rider on top tried to keep going, not caring that he was crushing the rider on the bottom, and the lifeguard had to yell at him, and hit the boat with a stick to get him to leave. When the top rider got off his boat, he walked away like nothing happened.
- Comedic Sociopathy: Former employees have confessed to hanging out near a snack bar near the "Surf Hill" attraction, since they could see either lost bra tops, grievous injuries, or both.
- Competence Zone: Teenagers ran the park about as well as you can expect; this led to a lot of the accidents.
- Giant Wall of Watery Doom: The wave pool was nicknamed the "Grave Pool" by lifeguards due to how many people they pulled out, as well as the fact that three people drowned there. Up to 30 people could require rescue in a single weekend, and there were always a dozen lifeguards on watch at any one time. Since most of the park's visitors were from the New York and New Jersey areas, they were used to going to beaches and didn't account for the lack of buoyancy they'd have in fresh water.
- Guide Dang It!: A strange Real Life example — the staff never mentioned that certain Waterworld areas had spring-fed pools, which meant the water was very cold. Unwary guests tended to get quite a jolt, especially when plunging in after standing in the hot sun, and for at least one person the shock was fatal.
- Intoxication Ensues: Alcohol was sold at concession stands, with little enforcement of the drinking age, meaning that many rides that were dangerous enough to go on sober were operated by drunk guests and employees. This was a major contribution to accidents.
- Lower-Class Lout: According to Class Action Park, a great percentage of the attendees were people of blue collar background from New York City, who couldn't afford to take exotic vacations in the Caribbean, so traveling to rural New Jersey was the closet thing they could do that resembled a long distance destination, and their lack of manners and decorum is what led to people getting hurt trying to push their, and the ride's, limits, and why the staff had to develop a routine to take care of a "Code Brown."
- Metaphorically True: The slogans "There's nothing in the world like Action Park nothing quite as dangerous, that is!" and "The Action never stops...if you consider "constant risk of serious injury" and "the ambulance ride to the hospital" to be "action" at Action Park!"
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The name "Action Park" was already something of a red flag itself, but the punning nicknames it gained (mostly from employees) — "Traction Park", "Class-Action Park", and "Accident Park" — really upped the ante. And then there's the "Grave Pool", which wound up being horribly, brutally accurate.
- Nintendo Hard: Probably one of the most twisted examples of this — riders liked the park precisely because of the freedom it allowed them, and the injuries they sustained were largely their own fault. Many people fondly remember Action Park as a place to demonstrate one's mettle.
- No OSHA Compliance: One of the most famous Real Life cases of this trope.
- Nostalgia Filter: Many of the contributors to The World's Most Dangerous Amusement Park remember the place fondly and think that, for all the mayhem that went on, the place was exciting in a way that later parks are not, and it actually taught young people something about being an independent person. Many people from New Jersey, the ones who didn't realize or think about how dangerous it was, often considered Action Park to be a rite of passage.It kinda makes me sad, I wonder if kids today have that feeling of "Man, let's go prove our backbone".
- Obvious Beta:
- While this fact has been largely forgotten today thanks to what the park is most famous for, Action Park was a major pioneer of many water rides. Of course, this meant that many rides were untested, and that they were the ones who had to work out the fact that, say, a looping water slide is dangerous.
- The skateboard park was poorly designed, with bowls that often didn't meet the edges smoothly, and caused many injuries. Only one season after its debut, it was filled up and the staff pretended it never existed.
- Off with His Head!: The infamous looping water slide apparently did this to test dummies.
- Parental Hypocrisy: In the HBO documentary, one former employer talks through Nostalgia Filter about how before cell phones, kids would go off on an adventure without parental supervision. The former employee recounts how before he got a job at there, he and his brother would have breakfast, then they would ride their bikes to Action Park, have fun, and be back home for dinner, with their parents being none the wiser. He then says that if he ever found out one of his kids ever did something like that, he "would beat their asses."
- Player Versus Player: The "Action Park Gladiator Challenge", based on American Gladiators.
- Reconstruction: A literal example in the park's grand re-opening, which now goes by the motto, "All of the thrills, none of the spills." This is most evident in the successor to the Cannonball Loop, the Sky Caliber, which is designed so that a safe looping water slide would actually be plausible.
- Restraining Bolt: The Super Go Karts and LOLA Cars rides had vehicles that ostensibly had a maximum speed of 20 mph (32 km/h), thanks to their governor devices. However, the staff knew that wedging tennis balls into the devices would disable them, allowing them to go up to 50 mph (80 km/h), and were willing to do so if a visitor desired. Unsurprisingly, many head-on collisions resulted. The employees were also known to take the karts out and race them on Route 94 after-hours, especially after a microbrewery opened up nearby.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Employees were reportedly offered hundred-dollar bills to test the infamous looping waterslide. According to a former employee, "$100 did not buy enough booze to drown out that memory." According to the documentary Class Action Park, during the park's heyday in the 1980s', despite the countless unreported minor injuries (scrapes, bumps, bruises, etc.) dozens of serious injuries (defined only as a visitor being carried out in an ambulance), and even a few deaths, Gene Mulvehill, who owned Action Park, didn't face serious legal repercussion, with the worst thing being a rare visit from the U.S. Marshalls' coming to collect an equally rare legal settlement that Mulvehill refused to pay right after the court proceedings. The reason for such a lax enforcement by the authorities is because Action Park brought a large influx of cash to the local economy in the summer, and his nearby ski resorts brought the cash in the winter.
- Tank Goodness: The "Tank Ride", where riders shot at other tanks, stopping them in place for 15 seconds.
- Too Fast to Stop: A common problem with the Go Karts and LOLA Cars, if their Restraining Bolt was removed. Also the sleds in the Alpine Slide, as they ended up having only two speeds: frustratingly slow and "death awaits" (paraphrasing an employee).
- We Don't Suck Anymore: The new, safer Action Park (while it still used the name) was often marketed as having "all of the thrills, and none of the spills".