Amidst coronavirus closures across the state, Oregon’s Enchanted Forest amusement park is trying to find ways to keep the storybook-themed wonderland alive. Though it was supposed to reopen for the season on March 20, the pandemic has kept it shut off from the public, and its owners are unsure of when their doors will reopen.
Some Oregon businesses and outdoor recreation areas have begun to reopen. Among them are Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood, which is operating under specific public health precautions.
Gatherings of more than 25 people are prohibited by Gov. Kate Brown’s executive order, which means amusement parks are being kept from reopening due to the crowds they draw.
Susan Vaslev, Co-Manager of Enchanted Forest, says that the business is already into their second loan, and they’re worried about the financial implications of the amusement park being shut down for so long. That’s why the Enchanted Forest staff is coming up with new ways to keep the park alive, even during a global pandemic.
The first reopening idea includes a $500 fee for a group of up to ten people from the same household to get a three hour private tour of the park, and exclusive access to rides without lines. Only a few of these special tours would be allowed each day.
Later, the Enchanted Forest hopes to reopen the park with limitations to the amount of people who can be there at one time, depending on state orders about crowds. Groups from separate households would be required to stay apart, and each ride would be wiped down between uses.
In order for the Enchanted Forest to employ these ideas, Marion County has to first enter Phase 1 of the state’s reopening plan. Though the county recently applied for approval to enter the phase, they were denied this request by state officials last Thursday, May 14.
The Enchanted Forest, despite its closure, has been able to keep all 12 of its full-time employees, but has not yet hired its usual 275 seasonal employees due to the pandemic.
To survive the closure, the amusement park has taken out a $300,000 private loan and received a Paycheck Protection Program federal loan of about $398,000.
The Enchanted Forest is supposed to be celebrating its 50-year anniversary in 2021, but now, the park is more uncertain of its future than ever before.
By Cara Nixon