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“We don’t speak about Action Park anymore…”

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Well, it was bound to become legend. Action Park was something I grew up with. I was born and raised in Sussex County, NJ, just about 20 mins south of Vernon, where Action Park was the face of the Vernon Valley – Great Gorge ski resort during the summer months (Now called ‘Mountain Creek’). The stories I used to hear would ‘turn your shit white!’. The ‘Cannonball Loop’ was well known, though before I started skiing in 1992, I had never seen it myself.

During the summer of 1993, I went to Action Park with some local friends. All of us being around 14 years old, we were old enough to know some of this crap was crazy, but still young enough not to really care. We figured…I figured…that if it was really that unsafe, it would have been shut down long ago. How naive I was. While I wasn’t hurt during that day, one event did shake me up enough to be very wary of going on anything else and most times after I would stand around and wait for my friends to finish having their fun.

There was a ‘ride’ in the park called the ‘Cliff Jump’ and it was exactly what you would expect, a 30 foot drop and a higher 50 foot drop down into a (very cold) pool, lined with rocks. (I exaggerate…slightly, but it looked that high when you were standing there!) The pool was pretty big so the rocks weren’t much of a concern, unless you didn’t get enough distance when you jumped, which is what happened to me. Since I’m deathly afraid of heights, I would only go on the ’30ft’ jump, and only after being ridiculed about being scared of going on the ’50ft’ one. The ‘attendants’ were no more than slightly older high-school kids getting some extra cash at a summer job. There was a line of kids (no adults that I could see anywhere, which I thought odd at the time), you stepped up to the edge, the kid would have his hand in front of you and after the kid before cleared enough distance in the pool (they alternated between the two drops, though the higher one was to the right far enough not to be much of a concern), he’d pull his hand up and you jumped.

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Well, everything went fine until it was my turn. The kid in front of me jumped, splashed down and swam away. The ‘attendant’ kid looked to the other drop for permission to let me go but no one jumped from the higher drop even though there was a line. So after a second (this all happened in mere seconds), he gave me the go ahead and I went to jump. At the very last possible moment, he went to put his hand down in front of me. But my momentum wouldn’t let me stop that fast and I grabbed the metal railing that was behind the kid and at the edge, trying to stop. It didn’t work. I had to jump. (Like I said, this was split-second stuff) I hoped to God I had enough clearance and fell, hoping the kid on the higher drop didn’t somehow come down on me too. I hit the water in not the greatest of positions, more to my side than feet first so it stung pretty bad. The water was FREEZING cold, too, especially given how hot the air was. As I swam to the edge of the pool, which slowly angled from deep to shallow, I looked up at the ‘attendant’ kid and he just shrugged his shoulders half-ass, like no big deal. Well, I suppose not for him. But it was for me. I was pretty much done after that. The next kid to come down from the higher drop actually did a belly-flop and when he hit the water the crack sounded like being next to a lightning strike! Everyone around said, ‘Oooh!‘. After what I had just experienced, I had no doubt that kid was gonna be hurting for a while…

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So these stories of horror from there are no surprise to me. I’m just surprised they made ‘national’ attention, years after it was shut down. It was kinda ironic that the winter before I had hit a patch of ice while skiing there and flipped, landing on and breaking my thumb. (I actually went down the mountain three more times after I broke it, until my thumb had swollen up so much I could not longer hold onto my skiing pole. The throbbing pain was getting ‘somewhat’ annoying too…lol) Then having this experience that summer, maybe it was a good thing I moved out of state that September…

(Originally posted to IO9 at 10/18/13 8:52pm – http://io9.com/we-dont-speak-about-action-park-anymore-well-it-wa-1448209714 )

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  1. travelsonic
    June 22, 2015 at 11:15 am

    Last year they put a webcam up for the cliff jumps, and I watched someone belly flop off of the higher one. Ouch.

    The place, as bonkers as it was, I feel is the kind of place we need – minus the anarchy that was present in the original runs, I mean the unique rides, and extreme thrills more so… and I honestly believe if things had been more controlled – lifeguards better trained, more serious, and more attentive for one, things would overall have been at least better. Some things regarding ride design would still need changes – like the wave pool, of course.

    Not to go on a long ramble, but when I was about 6 or so, my parents took my older brother and I to Action Park, I think it was the last year it was open under the original original management, under Great American Recreation (GAR), who went bankrupt soon after if I recall correctly.

    Even the kid rides were, pardon my french, fucking bonkers. I recall they had a ride, the “mini surf hill.” The only similarity between it, and the “full,” “adult” ride, was that they both ended with a quarterpipe-like berm at the end. This thing, from what I remember, had no mats, no dividers between riders, just a steep hill that flattened out at the bottom, before the aforementioned berm. Kids playing bumper cars with each other, as they careened down the damn thing, I probably did it a dozen times, I had a blast. 😀

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