TPJThemeParkJames

Conneaut Lake Park

Conneaut Lake, Pennsylvania, USA

Old-fashioned American lakeshore amusement park featuring classic rides including the 1938 Blue Streak wooden rollercoaster.

Opened15 August 1892
SeasonMay to October
OwnerKeldon Holdings LLC
Websitewww.newconneautlakepark.com
NearbyWaldameer (34 miles)
Kennywood (89 miles)
Idlewild and SoakZone (109 miles)
Cedar Point (123 miles)
Canada's Wonderland (157 miles)
Roadside entrance sign and car park

Roadside entrance sign and car park

Conneaut Lake Park is a traditional amusement park founded in 1892, and rooted in the community it serves. It has had a chequered history, a grand lakeshore resort in its heyday which has overcome several fires, but has succumbed to financial problems in recent years. Although a shadow of its former self, up until recently it remained a picture of rural Americana and featured a selection of vintage rides headlined by the classic 1938 Blue Streak wooden rollercoaster.

The park grew out Lynce's Landing, a lakeshore resort started by businessman Aaron Lynce in 1877 on the banks of Pennsylvania's largest natural lake. This offered boat landing, picnicking, horse stabling and a dance hall.

The park's gift shop is named after the Log Cabin, one of the earliest refreshment stalls at the resort

The park's gift shop is named after the Log Cabin, one of the earliest refreshment stalls at the resort

In 1892, Col Frank Mantor attracted investors from the Bessemer and Lake Eric Railroad who extended their railway to the resort. He opened Exposition Park with restaurants, shops, the first amusement rides, hotels and a bath house. Trains only ran at weekends, so people would come to the resort and stay for a week. Rail travel to Conneaut Lake continued up until 1971.

Following a large fire that destroyed half of the park in 1908, the midway was enhanced and more rides were gradually added. Moving away from its lakeshore resort focus and turning into an amusement park, it was renamed Conneaut Lake Park in the 1920s.

The park suffered financially in the Great Depression and was purchased in 1933 by new owners for $35,000 to free it from bankruptcy. They invested heavily in the park, adding a new nightclub, boardwalk, and the Blue Streak rollercoaster.

One of the park's picnic groves, encircled by Blue Streak

One of the park's picnic groves, encircled by Blue Streak

Ownership changed again in the 1940s, with a new management team which included Dr Harry Windslow. Under their direction, attractions such as Kiddieland and Fairyland Forest were added. In Fairyland Forest, guests encountered scenes such as Ali Baba, Red Riding Hood and Noah's Ark. They could also visit live animals including deer, mountain goats, prairie dogs and monkeys. It was closed in 1985 and became the site of Camperland, a campground across the road from the park's front entrance that was upgraded in 1990.

Control of the park passed through two generations of the Windslow family, before being handed to Charles Flynn on the death of his mother in 1981. A number of bad decisions and the changing amusement park market caused much decline in the fortunes of Conneaut Lake Park throughout the 1980s and early 90s, resulting in Flynn's attempt to auction off much of the park in 1992.

Kiddieland area

Kiddieland area

The community stepped in, with seven local businessmen buying the majority of rides at auction, together with the rest of the park. Unfortunately they were unable to make a profit either and, following the failure to open at all in 1995, Summer Resorts Inc. purchased the park in 1996 for $2million. But they too had financial problems, and the park was donated to the local community. Conneaut Lake Park was placed into a public trust, run by a board of trustees on behalf of and for the benefit of the people it was originally built to serve over 100 years ago.

By the end of the first decade of the 2000s, Conneaut Lake Park was offering a small collection of largely vintage rides spread across its tree-lined midway and side streets. It sat amongst over 100 private residences and other public buildings which make up the town, and its free entry policy encouraged locals to come and sit in the park or bring food to eat in its shady picnic shelters.

However, following more financial problems contributed to in large part by the Covid-19 Pandemic, the park was once again bankrupt and sold in March 2021. The new owner, Todd Joseph of Keldon Holdings LLC, announced that he would be removing "blighted wood" from the park. In reality this meant closing and removing many of the classic rides, culminating in a "controlled burn" that got out of control in January 2022 and spread to part of Blue Streak's wooden structure. This was the final nail in the coffin for the wooden coaster, which was apparently already in the process of being demolished, a task which was completed a few days later.

Sadly there is not much left to entice visitors to Conneaut Lake Park. It feels that the permanent closure of what does remain is inevitably just around the corner, and another classic American Amusement Park will be lost forever.

Attractions

Trabant

Trabant

Spinning flat ride

Flying Scooters

Flying Scooters

Flying ride

Tilt-a-Whirl

Tilt-a-Whirl

Classic spinning flat ride

Paratrooper

Paratrooper

Paratrooper flat ride from Frank Hrubetz and Co, Inc.

Mini Carousel

Mini Carousel

Tiny child friendly carousel

Splash City

Splash City

Water park featuring waterslides and a lazy river

Mini Golf

Mini Golf

18-hole miniature golf course