By Owen Krepps
SADSBURY TOWNSHIP — Conneaut Lake Park sits along Pennsylvania’s largest natural lake and the 200-acre, 129-year-old park is gearing up for its 2021 opening weekend starting Friday, July 2.
This year, under new ownership, the park looks to continue to serve as a hotspot destination off of Conneaut Lake.
For the last handful of years, the Economic Progress Alliance of Crawford County (EPACC) has owned the park working to keep it afloat and in limbo.
But in March of 2021, Philadelphia entrepreneur Todd Joseph bought Conneaut Lake Park from EPACC for $1.2 million dollars.
Project general manager and health teacher at Cambridge Springs, Jaclyn McCoy explained how without EPACC, Joseph would have never been able to buy the property.
“Guys like Jim and Angela from EPACC were able to keep the park alive and without them Todd would have never been able to buy this place,” said McCoy.
Ever since March, Joseph, McCoy and their team of workers and volunteers have been working non-stop, seven days a week to restore the park for summer 2021.
“We have done years of remodeling over the past four months,” said McCoy, who grew up in the local area, visiting Conneaut Lake Park frequently.
Like McCoy, Joseph’s wife grew up in the Conneaut Lake Area and has expressed interest in keeping one of the oldest and most historic venues in the local community alive.
“My whole teaching career has been in other communities and helping out in communities that were not initially my own. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but being able to help my own community is really special,” said McCoy.
Renovations and remodeling have been at the forefront of the process with Joseph envisioning the park to be an event center all year round. With many families vacationing at Conneaut Lake, the park will look to serve as a tourism hotspot for families and children once more.
One of the biggest challenges so far in this endeavor to restore the park has been working with some of the older attractions. Several rides have needed repairs, with some such as the tumble cars and the midway being scrapped entirely and put on display.
“You gotta demolish before you can rebuild. It is as simple as that,” said McCoy.
The world-famous BlueStreak will unfortunately not be operational for this summer, as repairs are needed before it can be ridden again. The team is hoping to restore the 17th-oldest wooden roller coaster in the world as soon as possible.
But these adjustments have paved the way for newer rides to refuel the park. Joseph and company have bought several new amusement park rides such as the octopus, dragon and mushroom rides. These smaller rides for children help fill out the rest of the park and are also transportable which makes reorganizing the park much easier.
Not only will the park be injected with new life thanks to these new rides, but several familiar locations at Conneaut Lake Park have been taken over and given a fresh coat of paint.
Some examples include an obstacle course inspired by “American Ninja Warrior” near the entrance of the park. The former pony track will house a corn pit and other outdoor activities similar to Port Farms in Edinboro. Also, on the beach, the former banquet hall/beach club is now a Tiki Bar serving drinks until 11 p.m.
McCoy mentioned that time has been the biggest challenge to the project thus far. The park was set to initially open up for Memorial Day weekend but was moved to the Fourth of July weekend instead.
Throughout the summer, the park will run every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, until around Labor Day.
The anticipated success of the rejuvenated park has motivated the team day in and day out to continue their endeavors to restore the landmark.
“This will bring life not only back to Conneaut Lake but also bring life back to Crawford County. It really is a win-win for both us and the community,” said McCoy.
Car shows and a live performance from 814 Takeover are scheduled for opening weekend, which is just two days away.
On Friday, the gates will open at 11 a.m., with fees for and general admission, the water and amusement parks.