Ebenezer Floppen Slopper's Wonderful Water slides facts for kids
From 1951 until the late 1970s, the site was owned by a local businessman, Clayburn Robinette, who used it as a gravel pit and then as a landfill for non-methane-emitting waste (technically called a cold-fill). By the 1960s the site was known locally as "Mt Trashmore".
When the landfill reached ground level, it was covered with concrete, brick and an eight-foot clay cap. The site, which had become a large hill in an otherwise flat area, was left unused and overgrown with vegetation until the late 1970s. At this time, a man named Mark Collor, who had grown up in River Forest and operated a water slide in suburban Kansas City, noticed it while driving along the highway, and became excited by its potential.
"Try to find a hill in Chicago, it's a little hard," Collor told the Chicago Tribune in 2009. "My friend and I saw that hill with that sign on top of it for The Flame restaurant, and I said, 'There's a hill!'"
Collor signed an agreement with the Robinette family to build two water slides and a few small buildings on the property.
The park's tongue-twister name came about because Collor had been amused by a story his brother-in-law had told about meeting a man in Joplin, Mo., named Ebenezer Floppen.
When the park first opened on July 5, 1980, it had only two simple, 800-foot concrete water slides. People slid down on rubber mats in groups of up to eight at a time. The mats were colour-coded to manage the flow of crowds through the slides: for instance, patrons carrying red mats entered the slides at noon and came out at 12:30, while those with blue mats entered at 12:30 and left at 1pm.
The water park had paid for its installation costs by 5 August 1980, and became a major summer attraction for residents of surrounding towns and communities as people lined up for rides down the large winding slides. After two years, Collor sold the park to a businessman he knew from Oak Park and River Forest High School.
During the 1980s, the park added five additional slides. The new slides included: two flat racer slides in which people slid down head-first on folded rubber mats; two semi-enclosed tube body slides; and a smaller slide in which patrons rode inner tubes into a nearby wading pool.
The slides were also unique in that they were lined with a blue rubber foam material which would prevent injuries from contacts with the slide walls. Due to the design of the two main large concrete slides, especially with the V-shaped configuration of their side walls, people could also slide quite high up the walls of the slides, especially when hitting a turn at high speeds.
Around 1987, the large concrete slides were resurfaced with flat bottoms with humps and bumps. Patrons rode the slides solo on inner tubes, getting bumped up and down and sideways as they went down the renovated slides. To fit the new rides, the park was renamed "Doc River's Roaring Rapids Water Park."
Closure and rumours
The park closed for good at the end of the 1989 season for unknown reasons. Neglected and abandoned since, the slides and wading pool have fallen into ruin. The site has become popular with urban explorers, and the mystery surrounding its closure has given rise to online speculation that park patrons had been injured or killed.
"It closed somewhere around 1989 because a teenager was going down a slide and flew off of the side," Flickr user gotnataliex3 claimed. "Once he died, no one really wanted to come back and it later closed. I'm pretty sure it was due to lawsuits."
"I read some kid got killed going down the speed sides [sic], the one he walked down in one of the videos," YouTube user Anthony Koyer commented. "I guess when the kid got to the end, he kept going and messed himself up on the side walk that was at the bottom, right after the small area you are should have slowed down and stopped! I guess he kept going. I used to glide it to the end myself, but would hook my legs at the edge so I would stop before hitting the side walk, I guess that kid did not. This caused the down slide of the place."
"Rumor has it that the park was closed down due to water filtration issues, along with the zoning board deeming that because the park was located atop a landfill it was originally an oversight," YouTube user Mark Palmer commented. "That's what I recall from the time."
Meanwhile, on an online discussion forum for Villa Park locals, Jack Steen argued the park had closed "because the toxic waste buried only slightly below the ground and covered with the thin layer of almost-cement was LEAKING AND BURNING THE SKIN OF THE CHILDREN WHO WERE USING THE PLACE FOR RECREATION."
There is no evidence for these claims, which are likely to be urban legends. However as of December 2018, the park is listed on the website of a law firm specialising in amusement park injuries, which claims: "We have successfully gone up against all major water parks in the United States including, but not limited to [this park]".
As a ruin
The site is still owned by the Robinette family, which operates a nearby demolition business. There are security cameras, signs warning against trespassing, a roadblock on a road that leads to the park, and a permanent chain-link fence has been erected around the site. None of this has deterred curious explorers.
By July 2009, the two large concrete slides had numerous cracks and splits in the concrete that had sprouted saplings six to eight feet tall. At that time, the rubber foam lining had peeled off the slide walls and lay jumbled in the slides, the slide walls were covered with graffiti, and the slides were also filled with tree branches and dirt, especially about 150 feet above the plunge pool, where a retaining wall had recently collapsed and filled one of the slides to its rim with dirt and weeds. Both racers were cracked and peeled badly: surfacing was missing in a few spots filled with more weeds and overgrowth, the body slides were choked with leaves and branches, the smaller inner tube slide had numerous saplings sprouting from its base and was also badly split and cracked, and the wading pool was also cracked and full of weeds. Other retaining walls elsewhere in the park that once held elevated gardens continued to sag severely in July 2009. As of April 2019, the only remnants of the water park that can be seen from Route 83 are some lights that illuminated the water park. A big red billboard that says “Advertise Here” can be seen at the top the hill.
Ebenezer Floppen Slopper's Wonderful Water slides Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.