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May 14, 2012

Conneaut Lake Park eager to welcome 120th season

CONNEAUT LAKE — Conneaut Lake Park has been there for 120 years — and Don Weyel and his live pony rides have seen 60 of them.

“I have all the faith in the world in that park,” said the longtime owner/operator of Weyel Pony Rides. “We’re looking forward to a good year this year.”

Others are too as the park gears up for its traditional Memorial Day Weekend season opening May 25.

With its classic park rides currently being readied — including the historic and renowned Blue Streak wooden rollercoaster — “Conneaut Lake Park is proud to celebrate its 120th anniversary this year,” said Jack Moyers, chairperson of Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park Inc.

That board was established to run the park as a public trust by Crawford County Court of Common Pleas order in 2007 and, along with private business partners Park Restoration LLC, has managed to open and operate the park each year since the summers of 2009 after much of it sat idle for two years prior.

This summer, Moyers said, park officials plan to keep building on recent years’ successes, including the reopening of the Blue Streak and other park attractions; ongoing renovations and upgrades to the park’s Hotel Conneaut, Beach Club and other historic facilities; and the continuation of a variety of popular events such as its annual Memorial Day Beach Volleyball Tournament and the annual Art Fair on the Boardwalk in late June.

Continuing their ongoing maintenance and renovations to the Blue Streak, Moyers said Leonard and Lenny Adams of Adams Amusements — this year’s all-park rides operator — are working on laying a total of approximately 200 feet of new rollercoaster track prior to the season opening. The Blue Streak was re-opened late in the 2010 season after undergoing major restoration work that was funded in part by a $50,000 Pepsi Refresh grant.

And Moyers didn’t go into specific details, but he said along with that and the rest of the park’s historic and attractions, “I think we’re (also) going to see a couple of new rides float in this season.”

At the lakeshore side of the park, Moyers said the partners and staff of Park Restoration LLC continue their  “outstanding renovations to the Hotel Conneaut, while operating it and the Beach Club” following a sweeping series of major projects to restore and improve those and other park facilities.

Officials last year said it’s been decades since the more than 100-year-old hotel and nearby club have seen improvement efforts as extensive as those launched by the business group, which began operating and renovating the facilities in 2008 and officially entered into a 30-year renewable lease for the hotel and a 20-year renewable lease for the club in early 2009.

Keeping up with what they said are ever-growing bookings for both public and private events, the group also worked last year to restore and upgrade the Dockside building neighboring the Beach Club. That project included the installation of a new 40-foot bar, new electrical wiring, large windows directly overlooking the waters of Conneaut Lake and more.

Officials and park project supporters have said the goal moving forward is to maintain and modernize those and other park facilities, but at the same time keep a firm grip on the nostalgic feel present throughout Conneaut Lake Park.

Those leading the park into the future “are doing a terrific job,” said Weyel. The park’s “been here for so long. ... (And) it’s coming back.”

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