April 16 2010

Memories of Action Park

Anyway, back in my high school days there was a waterpark called ‘Action Park’ out in NJ. Probably went there three times and I always remember it being action packed— and totally nerve wracking. Pretty much whatever ride or slide you’d go on there’d be this real-life feeling like you could get all killed up on it. The place was run real loose. Like nobody was really in charge and the teenagers who ran the rides weren’t concerned about anything but their next weed break…

One ride The Cannonball Loop* was basically a water tube (fully enclosed tube) that went in a loop dee loop. You’d jump in it and you’d shoot down at super speed (terrifying) then do a loop and then the tube would go underground then you’d shoot out over this like cold green swampy pond for a totally disorienting splashdown. Plus, you knew you had to swim out of the way fast because whoever was next in line was probably already on the way down and about to land on your friggin head. The Otto style stoners that ran the ride were not umm… safety oriented. Two at a time? No problem! Head first or feet first? Up to you, dude! Cannonball it! Just make sure you swim out of the way fast

Found some photos on the interwebs. The place was way more hillbilly than I remember. Here’s the cannonball loop:

cannonballloop

*Clarification of my incorrect cannonball memory in the comments section…*

The ‘Alpine Slide’ was this rough concrete slide thing and you’d ride some sort of speeding plastic vehicle down it. All you had control over was the pull-up brake. And no question about it if you went too fast you’d go flying off the track or maybe flip it and rip all your skin off. The concrete was like sandpaper (maybe a safety precaution to slow you down if you wiped out?). No helmet no nothing. Just a tight grip on the brake. Total free-balling it safetywise. It was like being a stuntman! I remember getting to the bottom and feeling like I just accomplished something by not being unconscious or ripped up or smashed…

It looks slow but you could pick up serious luge-style speed on this one:

13orobalpineslider

The thing that scared me most was though the ‘Wave Pool’. A pool that made mini-tidal waves– and you were allowed to bring rafts in there. Like those dense spongy rectangle rafts and inner tubes. And sometimes the pool would be so packed that rafts were covering the whole surface of the deep end. If you went under– chances are you’d come up under the rafts and have to fight your way to the surface while the waves kept coming.

One time I was under for a beat too long and immediately wanted to get out of the pool. But you could only reach the ladder in the deep end when the ‘tide’ was high. If your grip slipped you’d have to wait for the tide to rise again to grab ahold of the wet metal ladder. The timing had to be just right to get out. Even as a dopey teenager I remember thinking— holy shit that pool is friggin dangerous!!

Here’s the shallow end on a less crowded, less drown-oriented day.

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Of course, soon we started hearing real stories about things going wrong at Action Park. Someone drowned in the wave pool. Someone got electrocuted on the Kayak Ride. Rumors kept coming about head smashes and alpine slide neck breaks and stuff. And thankfully eventually it closed or was condemned or whatever. The action stopped.

But I still do have fond memories of the place! It was high energy ‘action’! They’ll never be anything like this place was in its prime. Unapologetically dangerous. It must have been running right before a mega lawsuit could clobber a place down. Like chances are if I broke my arm on a ride I would have accepted four free passes and an all I can eat ice cream coupon and been done with it.

Because back then you knew if you were going to Action Park… Action Park could totally f–k you up. Permanent style. That was the deal. Don’t like it? Don’t come. Enter at your own risk and live to tell the tale. Or stay a bone dry unscathed chicken…

ok bye!
tOdd

PS. I googled and found some great coverage bout Action Park here

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Jessica says:

That loop looks scary. Am surprised its feasible.

Miss those days of ‘have fun at your own risk’.

Goats says:

Dude! Did you really get on the cannonball loop? I heard that NEVER operated! Too dangerous! I went there throughout the 80s, starting in 82/83, and it was NEVER open. I bunji jumped twice there before it closed, and did that awesome sky diving ride where you put on the suit and fly over the fan of doom! There was another cannonball ride that had no loop; it was a huge dark tunnel (right by the tarzan swing) that let you out into the freezing pond, where you had about 10 secs to clear out before someone landed on top of you. Are you sure you are not mistaking the loop of death cannonball ride for the straight cannonball ride?

I think I was last at AP in 93/94–somewhere around that time. I LOVED that place! Wave pool ruled! So did the crazy straight down 7 story waterslide! With cages to keep you in! And the Kamikazee waterslide, also known as the wedgie slide! We loved checking out the chicks in bikinis as they would get up at the bottom! Good times!!!!!

Odd Todd says:

You’re right…! I totally didn’t remember the loop but when I googled about it to find pictures all they had were the ones with the loop. And I was like ‘Holy smokes that thing did a loop?’ I was weirded out that I didn’t remember that– but it was still familiar because I know I’d seen it. I see in the picture it didn’t do the splashdown into the pond neither. Now it all makes sense. But maybe this grammatically didn’t…

Thanks for the flag on the play…

Donna says:

Nicknamed: Traction Park and Class Action Park
lol

The wiki article is extensive and a fun read too.

I was there once had a FANTASTIC time. I was 9 and was obv. fearless and dumb.

traction park says:

Super excited to see this post. I actually lived near Action Park. Basically it was Vernon Valley/Great Gorge ski resort (yes, there were two ski hills in New Jersey). Sometime in the early 80′s or late 70′s probably they installed the “Alpine Slide” so that there would be summer activity for the park. I think originally there were two slides side by side. It really was great fun but also frightening. The first time we went there my dad and my friend’s dad decided they would go up and try it first “to make sure it was safe.” The friend’s dad came back with a huge bloody torn up arm after flying off the slide. But apparently this was acceptable risk and we all went up to go for it. It was nuts because the banks were high and you’d actually need skill to work the brake or you’d start swinging all up and down and almost jump the track. Also, they’d just let people go whenever so you were always in a panic to go super fast or else some jerk would slam into you from behind, which happened to me once and knocked the sled out from under me. I ended up walking down. This went on for a few years and then they added a skate park. Then a while later they just went nuts. Every year they added more and more. There were mini-formula race cars (you needed to be like 16 or have a license or something), that loop-slide (I agree, I never saw it open…it looks like certain death if you didn’t go around the loop), the wave pool, tons of crazy water slides, bumper boats (actually a VERY cool ride), and waaay more. At first it was quaint but within a few years it did get crazy packed. Bus loads of people would come and the place was too busy. Soon the stories did start coming out, I heard about the electrocution and drownings. We called it “Traction Park” or “Accident Park.” And then one day, poof, it was all over. Definitely one of the more defining memories of my childhood.

Goats says:

Yeah, I went there with a friend and his dad when I was 10. I remember really wanting to try the loop ride, as it was completed by then, but it wasn’t opened. I remember also being jealous of my friend for being tall enough to get on the tank ride where you shot tennis balls—I was too little then, though later, when I wasn’t too little, it was kind of lame. I do miss action park though, as well as the original lightening loops at Great A!

frank rizzo says:

still exists as in mt creek/diablo free ride mt biking park.

Brad says:

I remember going to a waterpark very similar to that somewhere in the Appalachian mountains while on vacation. I was totally psyched because it had a really cool looking waterslide. You had the typical spongy raft like thing to ride down on. The only problem is the joints between each section had been repaired over the years with concrete! If you let your feet or hands dangle out from the raft at all it was like letting them slide against a belt sander. And every once in a while, you’d hit once section that would grab onto the sponge and fling you off right into the next “repaired” section. I was probably about 5-6 at the time and remember crying my head off with blood coming from about every square inch of my body once I made it all the way down. I think my older brother went down twice before he realized how unfun it was.

Anonymous says:

Todd, that was one awesome tale……..

the REAL weeze says:

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the REAL wooze says:

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Mr Bill says:

@ Brad:

Yeah they had something similar where I was growing up called “White Water”… the park is still there but it has changed hands and names 10 times at least.

The fully enclosed “black hole” thing was awesome, but when you got launched into the pool you had about 2 1/2 seconds to get out of the way or another kid would land on you. Like Todd described. I got some feet to the back of the head on my last trip there and didn’t ride that one again.

The super tall slide was great until your mat got caught on something and you made the rest of the trip on bare skin. Last time I went with my cousins and came home a bloody mess. Good times.

Mike says:

I forgot what that death trap was called – Alpine Slide. I was a kid and got to go down solo! I was so excited. I banked a curve going too fast mid way down and ended up flipping over, crashing down and sliding down on my bare legs for a few feet. The ski lift to get up there was overhead, so there I was for all to look down on – me on my back in the middle of the track with blood running down my legs and the cart a few feet further down the track. I heard the ‘oohs’ and ‘ouches’ overhead. I live in MD now and wondered if that place was still open every now and then.

Jimmy Legg says:

….just like going to Broadway.

Wow, and I thought Lake of the Ozarks was classy.

Liability, schmliabilty.

Great post tOdd

Anonymous says:

Jimmy Legg,

I recall visiting this posting a year or so ago, as I wiped out on this thing as a pre teen ( I am now on my 40′s) I recently Googled my name and saw this post, yet it is not me…Just thought it ironic and kind of cool that someone with my exact name actually was somewhere that I actually had been…wild, this world is getting smaller buy the minute

NJ Peep says:

I loved reading this

Goats says:

I got down the alpine slide unscathed multiple times, but I remember if I was with a camp, they wouldn’t let us ride down and had counselors patrolling to make sure we didn’t.

R N says:

Wow! Too bad the park doesn’t exist anymore. I’d love to experience it.

NJ Peep says:

The kid at the :16 mark looks like he’s about to drown

anonymous says:

Great story tOdd.

West Milly E Dubbs says:

I was one of the “Otto” ride operators (worked on the bungee jump in’93). You are dead on buddy, there was a lot of weed being smoked (usually confiscated from the park goers by people like myself to use on lunch break). It was truly one of the most awesome jobs ever, definitely had an “adventureland” type of vibe. In ironic twist, I’m now a claims adjuster for a major insurance company!!!!!!

Grammar Police says:

Your grammar is all over the place, tODD! You should find a proof reader!

Todd's Gramma says:

Leave me out of this .

mike says:

I remember Action Park – it was like Great Adventure on steroids. I have home movies riding the go-carts there. Like you said, no helmets, no seatbelts, just accidents waiting to happen. Ah the good ol days!

Goats says:

Holy crap–I bet West Millie and/or your friends found some of the “W” we (my friends and I) lost on that damb cart that brought you from waterworld to motorworld! LOL I remember realizing someone left it on one of the seats too late!

Shannon says:

Aw man Todd! You’re so lucky. I begged and begged my parents to take me to Action Park but they would never let me go. Now I live vicariously thought internet stories of it, and my husband… who was born and raised in Massachusetts remembers going “on vacation to New Jersey” and totally wiping out on the Alpine Slide! Ugh.

Wish I'd Gone! says:

What a fun place! Wow! Sounds like the inmates ruled the asylum!!

Anonymous says:

Hey Todd, I worked there for four years. In the winter I was Ski Patrol and in the Summer First Aid and Security. Scrapes, Bruises, Broken Bones and the dreaded Alpine Slide “Road Rash” were all daily routine and numbered in the hundreds daily. Even wo deaths on my watch. It was a fun spot but there were a lot of injuries. The one thing that everyone fails to mention is that 90% of the injuries and 100% of the serious one were all Alcohol Related. Everybody was tanked. They sold beer all over and even had a large bar called the “Octagon” to liquor up and have “Liquid Courage”. “Watch This” became our standard comment when someone asked what happened. Stupid and Drunk being the primary reason for problems. Good First Aid experience I guess. Anyway I still miss it. Chicks in bikinis all day long!

C.J. says:

There was one just like this in Ontario at a ski resort called blue mountain. One time I didn’t heed the warning to go “Slow” on the concrete slide thing and went right off the sled. Got all scraped up but managed to get back on the sled. Funny part is I didn’t want to tell my parents – so just tried to hide my bleeding scrapes for as long as I could

Goats says:

I agree with the last anonymous–if you were sober, and knew how to swim, you’d be fine at AP…If you got drunk and acted like a jackass, you sort of deserved what you got.

Bill says:

I started going there in 1977 because my parents went to the huge music festivals in the big tent. It started out as just riding the ski lift up and back (kinda fun in summer, with nice view and all) and the Alpine Slide. I saw a guy in front of me (but on the other track) wipe out and smash his glasses on a rock. And I heard the original owner started his own insurance company, basically a scam to insure himself. By 1985 there was the monorail that broke a lot, the Kamikaze slide that gave wedgies, and 30 foot cliff jump into the fake rock pool, Oh! How about the year they had the skydive simulator! It was a giant fan and cage, and you wore a special baggy suit to float. I mostly only saw the instructor doing it. I never saw the loop thing being used. Yep, I went there a lot, did some death defying stuff, and I’m lucky to be alive.

Goats says:

Bill–I did that skydive simulator! It was pretty badass from what I remember (though to be honest, I was probably REALLY high)!

Anonymous says:

I used to work as a parking lot flagger at Action Park…lame…I know, but the cool part was, you got a free pass for the park each day so you could go inside, eat and use bathrooms. Every day, I sold my pass to someone in the lot, and supplemented my crappy ass pay. This was an awesome way to make money, until I got fired for it. I remember lots of injuries, and lots of closed rides. Good times!

Leon says:

I live less than a mile from where this place used to be, and it’s kind of a local legend. Believe it or not, there is still a water park on the site during the summer, along with a mountain biking park. In the winter, the whole area is a rather busy ski resort (yes, skiing in New Jersey!). This whole conglomeration of recreational facilities is known as Mountain Creek and while the occasional ambulance siren does tear through the tranquility of Vernon township even to this day, it is nowhere near what I hear it used to be like.

But on quiet summer nights, if you listen real carefully, faint echoes of Action Park victims’ dying screams can still be heard…

sweete says:

OMG i almost died at AP , good times lol

student loan says:

Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!

Opeth says:

man i grew up in vernon too…right across the street from the americana/legends/whateverthehell the hotel is called now…unfortunately i was too young to go to the actual action park and do anything super fun…although i heard some horror stories from a buddy of mine that used to work the bungie tower…sad that its been neutered into mountain creek but so goes the wussyfying of the human race

How to become a pharmacy technician says:

Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher!

holy crap! says:

From Wikipedia:

Six people are known to have died directly or indirectly from rides at Action Park:
On July 8, 1980, a 19-year-old park employee was riding the alpine slide when his car jumped the track and his head struck a rock, killing him.[19]
On July 24, 1982, a 15-year-old boy drowned in the Tidal Wave Pool.[19][20]
A week later, on August 1, a 27-year-old man from Long Island got out of his tipped kayak on the Kayak Experience to right it. He was electrocuted when he stepped on a grate that was either in contact with, or came too close to, a section of wiring for the underwater fans that was exposed. Several other members of his family nearby were also injured. He was taken to a hospital in nearby Warwick, New York where he died later of heart failure from the electric shock.[5][19]
The park at first disputed that the electric current caused his death, saying there were no burns on his body, but the coroner responded that burns generally do not occur in a water-based electrocution.[5]
The ride was drained and closed for the investigation. Accounts differed as to the extent of the exposed wiring: the park said it was “just a nick,” while others said it was more like 8 inches (20 cm). The state’s Labor Department found that the fan was properly maintained and installed and cleared the park of wrongdoing; however it also said the current had the possibility to cause bodily harm under certain circumstances.[19] While the park said it was vindicated, it never reopened the ride, saying people would be afraid to go on it afterwards.[5]
In 1984, a fatal heart attack suffered by one visitor was unofficially believed to have been triggered by the shock of the cold water in the pool beneath the Tarzan Swing. The water on the Tarzan Swing and in that swimming area was 50-60 °F (10-16 °C) while other water areas were in the 70-80 °F (21-27 °C) range more typical of swimming pools. The Tarzan swing and the cannon ball ride in this area were operated by spring water.[13]
On August 27 of that year, a 20-year-old from Brooklyn drowned in the Tidal Wave Pool.[21]
On July 19, 1987, an 18-year-old drowned in the Tidal Wave Pool.

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