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Action Park
Action Park Logo - 1996.jpg
Slogan Where You're the Center of the Action!
There's Nothing in the World like Action Park
Location Vernon Township, New Jersey, United States
Owner Great American Recreation
Opened May 26, 1978; 44 years ago (1978-05-26) and 2014; 8 years ago (2014)
Closed September 2, 1996; 25 years ago (1996-09-02) and May 29, 2016; 6 years ago (2016-05-29)
Previous names Mountain Creek Waterpark (1998–2013, 2016–Present)
Status Closed
Renovated and reopened as Mountain Creek Waterpark in 1998

Action Park was an amusement and water park located in Vernon Township, New Jersey, United States, on the grounds of the Vernon Valley/Great Gorge ski resort. The park consisted primarily of water-based attractions and originally opened to the public in 1978, under the ownership of Great American Recreation (GAR).

Action Park featured three separate attraction areas: the Alpine Center, Motorworld, and Waterworld. The latter was one of the first modern American water parks. Many of its attractions were unique, attracting thrill-seekers from across the New York metropolitan area. Action Park's popularity went hand-in-hand with a reputation for poorly designed rides, under-trained and under-aged staff, intoxicated guests and staff, and a consequently poor safety record. At least six people are known to have died as a result of mishaps on rides at the park, and it was given nicknames such as "Traction Park", "Accident Park", and "Class Action Park". Little effort was made by state regulators to address these issues, despite the park's history of repeat violations. In its later years, personal injury lawsuits led to the closure of increasing numbers of rides and eventually the entire park closed in 1996.

On February 9, 1998, resort developer Intrawest announced the purchase of the majority of the Vernon Valley/Great Gorge ski area, including Action Park and other developable real estate lands that GAR owned. The park received a massive overhaul, which included extensively renovating and repairing attractions, especially those deemed either outright unsafe or inappropriate relative to Intrawest's vision of the park, with some being removed entirely. Afterwards, the park reopened as Mountain Creek Waterpark.

History

Landing at the end of a waterslide
Mini-slide built into the side of a mountain

The idea for the park began in 1976 when Eugene Mulvihill and his company, Great American Recreation (GAR), the owners of the recently combined Vernon Valley/Great Gorge ski area, wanted to find a way to generate revenue during the summer. That year, they followed the trend of many other ski areas, and opened a 2,700-foot-long (820 m) alpine slide down one of the steep ski trails. For the summer of 1978, Mulvihill added two water slides and a go-kart track, and named the collection of rides the "Vernon Valley Summer Park". The following year, more water slides and a small deep-water swimming pool, as well as tennis courts and a softball field, were added to what became known as the Waterworld section of "Action Park." By 1980, Motorworld had been carved out of swampy lands the ski area owned across Route 94. Combined, these areas formed one of North America's earliest modern water parks.

Ultimately, the small park consisting of the alpine slide and two water slides evolved to a major destination with 75 rides (35 motorized, self-controlled rides and 40 water slides).

Action Park's most successful years were the early- and mid-1980s. Most rides were still operating, and the park's dangerous reputation had not yet developed. In 1982, two guests died at the park within a week of each other, leading to the permanent closure of one ride. Despite this, people continued to come in massive numbers. The park's fortunes began to turn with two deaths in the summer of 1984, and the legal and financial problems that stemmed from the ensuing lawsuits. A state investigation of misconduct in the leasing of state land to Action Park led to a 110-count grand jury indictment against the nine related companies that ran the park and their executives for operating an unauthorized insurance company. Many took pretrial intervention to avoid prosecution; CEO Eugene Mulvihill pleaded guilty that November to five insurance fraud-related charges. Still, attendance remained high, and the park remained profitable—at least on paper.

The park entertained over one million visitors per year during the 1980s, with as many as 12,000 coming on some of the busiest weekends.

By the 1990s, the Action Park was being advertised as the world's largest water park. Additionally, the park launched a website on which visitors could find information about rides, directions to the park, and lodging, and even enter a lottery for a chance to win park tickets. In September 1991, Great American Recreation attempted to petition the Vernon Township Committee to put a referendum on the November ballot that, if passed, would have legalized the operation of games of skill and chance at Action Park. On September 23, the petition was rejected by the committee, because only 643 of the 937 signatures on the petition came from registered voters.

A few rides were closed and dismantled due to costly settlements and rising insurance premiums in the 1990s, and the park's attendance began to suffer as a recession early in that decade reduced the number of visitors. In early 1995, GAR operated Vernon Valley/Great Gorge and Action Park with no liability insurance. New Jersey did not require it, and GAR found it more economical to go to court than purchase liability insurance, since they relied on their own self-insurance. However, they ultimately purchased liability insurance from Evanston Insurance Company in May of that year to cover Action Park and the skiing facilities. As 1995 progressed, GAR's financial woes continued to accumulate. First Fidelity Bank, who lent $19 million to GAR and some 15 other connected corporations, filed suit against them in an effort to begin the process of foreclosing on the debt owed to them. Law firms owed money for services rendered between 1991 and 1993 also began filing suit. As November approached, GAR negotiated a deal with Noramco Capital Corp. and the Praedium Fund of CS First Boston, in which they would purchase the debt owed to First Fidelity, temporarily fending off an impending foreclosure.

In February 1996, the creditors who had taken on GAR's debt petitioned to force GAR into bankruptcy over the $14 million owed by the struggling company. GAR filed for Chapter 11 protection that following March, but remained optimistic that they could regain their financial footing "within a year."

Action Park closed at the end of the season as usual on Labor Day, September 2, 1996. As the 1997 summer season approached, GAR remained optimistic that Action Park would open as expected on June 14, in spite of massive layoffs that occurred at the end of the prior ski season. The opening date was pushed back to June 28, then mid July. On June 25, 1997, GAR announced the cessation of all its operations, including Action Park.

Following the demise of GAR in 1997, Praedium Recovery Fund purchased the Vernon Valley/Great Gorge resort, including Action Park, for $10 million. The investment group put Angel Projects in charge of managing the resort, and aimed to spend $20 million to upgrade the ski resort's equipment and trails and to remodel the water park. Canadian resort developer Intrawest, however, purchased the park and surrounding ski area in February 1998. The company revamped the Waterworld section of Action Park, and reopened it for the 1998 season as Mountain Creek Waterpark, while the Motorworld and Alpine Center sections were demolished.

2014 revival

In 2010, the whole Mountain Creek ski area and water park was sold to a group led by Eugene Mulvihill, the former owner of Great American Recreation and the owner of the adjacent Crystal Springs Resort; however, he died two years later. Under the new ownership the name of the water park was changed back to Action Park, starting with the 2014 season. In 2016, the Mountain Creek Waterpark name was restored to the park, thus retiring the Action Park name again.

Spinoff locations

Pocono Action Park and Motorworld

On April 14, 1980, Pocono Action Park Inc. was formed by Great American Recreation, which later opened Pocono Action Park and Motorworld. Located in the town of Tannersville, Pennsylvania, it had a Waterworld section with slides and tube rides, as well as a Motorworld section featuring many of the same racing themed attractions—including Lola race cars and go-karts—as the Vernon park. By late 1991, the park was closed. The rides were torn down in stages, and The Crossings Premium Outlets was built over the location. Even after the park closed, however, Pocono Action Park Inc. continues to exist and is listed as an active business.

Action Mountain

In June 1984, Stony Point Recreation, a subsidiary of GAR, opened Action Mountain in Pine Hill, New Jersey. The park offered an alpine slide, go-karts, Lola race cars, bumper boats, speed slides, tube slides, swimming pools, as well as a diving platform. By 1986, Stony Point Recreation had accumulated $398,697 in back taxes owed to the town of Pine Hill, and in an effort to relieve the debt sold off the park. In 1999, the site was redeveloped into the Pine Hill Golf Course.

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