The planned May 23 opening of Conneaut Lake Park amusement park is postponed indefinitely, though both its campground and marina are opening in the coming days.
In announcing the postponed opening Wednesday morning, park officials cited uncertainty because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials made the announcement not long after telling the Tribune that the May 23 opening was still scheduled.
Back on March 19, Gov. Tom Wolf issued a statewide shutdown order of "non-life-sustaining" in Pennsylvania. The order halted general preparation work at the amusement park, as well as a rehabilitation project on the Blue Streak, the amusement park's famous wooden roller coaster.
Pennsylvania also issued stay-at-home orders for select counties — including Crawford — before the stay-at-home order became statewide on April 1.
Now, Wolf has announced the state may allow a relaxation of the stay-at-home order for Crawford County and parts of northwestern Pennsylvania on May 8.
The easing of restrictions may allow for social gatherings of not more than 25 people.
But it's unknown what effect a 25-person limit might have on amusement parks, plus additional guidelines for places like amusement parks haven't come yet, Jim Becker, executive director of Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park said.
Uncertainty about guidelines coupled with unfinished opening preparations led to the decision to delay the opening, Becker, said.
"We're in the same boat as other parks like Waldameer (in Erie)," Becker said. "We do know that we won't be ready (to open) by May 23."
The park’s opening day was slated as the kickoff the season since it's the Saturday of the three-day Memorial Day holiday weekend at the park.
However, both Camperland, the amusement park's campground, and the park's marina on Conneaut Lake will open as the state is allowing some outdoor recreation to open on Friday, Becker said.
Wolf announced this week that golf courses, marinas, guided fishing trips and privately owned campgrounds may reopen starting Friday, but they are required to follow updated life-sustaining business guidance issued by the state.
Camperland will open Friday, Becker said, while Conneaut Lake Park's marina is scheduled to open May 15. The 32 slips for the marina are being prepared for installation, he said.
"We were originally going to open Camperland May 8, but we quickly adjusted and are getting it ready," Becker said.
But it's the uncertainty around COVID-19 and what steps the state will require for the amusement park to open, combined with preparation work not being done, that led to the decision to postpone opening day, Becker said.
"It's things like hand sanitizer stations and social distancing and how it's going to have to be applied to the amusement park," Becker said.
It's also controlling costs, too, under the situation, Becker said.
There's a concern the state could issue regulations limiting amusement parks to operate at less than full capacity — thus cutting into potential revenue for the park.
Conneaut Lake Park still is under Chapter 11 federal bankruptcy protection to reorganize its debts. Revenue the park generates goes not only toward operations, maintenance and improvements at the park, but also toward payments of secured creditors for past debts.
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.