All this month, we Outsiders are blogging about theme parks.
The timing couldn't be better... as I recently learned New Jersey's (in)famous ACTION PARK is reopening.
For those of you not as old as I am, let me tell you a bit about Action Park. Deep in Vernon Township, Action Park was a favorite destination for teens in the 80's, like me. Part water-park, part amusement park, Action Park's claim to fame was you go to control the intensity of your fun -- and left with the injuries to prove it. Some of the attractions, like the rapids water slide, featured time limits. You could ride as often as you liked within a 15 or 20 minute span, so if you were fast enough to run up those hills, you could squeeze in more runs than someone who preferred to walk.
In addition to the rapids, there was a giant wave pool (which claimed several lives), and a famous Alpine Slide, which was a concrete track that resembled a chute on which a tiny sled rode. Picture a miniature bobsled track. You controlled the speed of the sled with a brake lever conveniently located between your legs. Access to the slide was via a ski lift-like ride. You reached the top and then chose one of several tracks to ride down. The first time we rode the ski lift, I asked if this was safe. Just as my husband -- who was my boyfriend at the time -- assured me it was, a rider came around a curve too fast and was flipped from his sled onto the concrete track, leaving a trail of skin and blood behind.
Action Park in the mid-80's became known more for its injuries than for its attractions. With nicknames like Class Action Park and Traction Park, I can attest it was easy to get hurt. On one of the water slides, you rode down on a giant tire tube. I got turned out of my tube just before a drop and ended up riding down a hill on my own skin.
There was another attraction that always reminded me of horse racing. About ten or twelve lanes were set up on a water slide that had several bumps. Depending on the size of the person, those 'bumps' could shoot the rider into the air, sending him or her crashing into the next lane. Lifeguards at the bottom of the run looped dozens of chains on their arm -- jewelery that had come off during the ride. (In the '80's, girls wore ankle bracelets around their necks and boys wore St. Christopher medals.)
Despite the risk and the danger, I was sad when the park closed in the early '90's but thrilled to hear it's reopening this season as "All of the thrills, none of the spills." A video of the revised Alpine Slide shows a larger sled with a high back rest and seat belt. The concrete track is gone, replaced by a metal one.
I can't help but think of Action Park in the '80's as the 'rough draft' and this re-opening as the revision.