Meadville Tribune

August 2, 2013

Park's recent history marred by suspicious fires

By Keith Gushard
Meadville Tribune

CONNEAUT LAKE PARK — As soon as word spread that The Beach Club complex was on fire early Thursday, speculation began that the blaze might have been set on purpose by an arsonist.

It is too soon to tell if that was the case, but the talk was more than idle speculation. The park itself and the area around it have suffered numerous significant suspicious fires over the past several years.

During summer 2012, there were multiple fires of undetermined origin.

Five those six fires last summer were night-time fires at abandoned residential structures in the area of Conneaut Lake Park. The sixth fire was an accidental electrical fire at a home on Reed Avenue Extension.

Also, Conneaut Lake Park lost its historic Dreamland Ballroom to an arsonist Feb. 1, 2008, in a $1.5 million fire. In its heyday, the Ballroom drew crowds from across the region to see and dance to major musical acts of the ’50s and ’60s.

Nikolas Dean Pope of Hartstown was sentenced in Crawford County Court of Common Pleas to serve three to 20 years in a state prison plus 10 years of probation after pleading guilty to burning down the Hartstown Presbyterian Church Jan. 13, 2008, and the Dreamland Ballroom on Feb. 1, 2008. Pope was age 19 at the time of the fires.

Following his arrest April 4, 2008, Pope told investigators from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, that he had been out “to cause mischief.”

After a two-day post-blaze stint in 2008 as a movie set for some scenes in the post-Apoctalyptic movie, “The Road,”  the devastated ballroom was demolished in mid-May 2008 and that lot remains empty.

Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park, the corporation that oversees the public trust that owns the amusement park, had no fire insurance on the building.

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at