FROM STAFF REPORTS
Aurora / Bainbridge -- Seeking to encourage Cedar Fair to keep Wildwater Kingdom open, an area resident has collected nearly 4,300 signatures on a change.org petition.
Heather Schneider initiated the petition last week after the water park closed Sept. 5 (Labor Day). The shutdown had been announced in August.
As of mid-afternoon Sept. 12, the petition had collected 4,287 signatures. On the petition, Schneider said she plans to send it to Cedar Fair, operator of Wildwater Kingdom; Aurora Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin; and Bainbridge Township officials.
Area residents can see the petition at www.change.org/p/cedar-fair-entertainment-company-save-geauga-lake-s-wild-water-kingdom-family-park
"Cedar Fair's decision to close the park was made at the corporate level," said Womer Benjamin. "While we're saddened to lose this Northeast Ohio amenity, we're anxious to see the redevelopment of the entire property.
"I totally understand people's nostalgia for the park and upset at its departure, but this was not a decision within our control.
"We continue to work with Cedar Fair and Bainbridge to build a comprehensive plan for the entire area which could bring hundreds of new jobs and new investment."
A Cedar Fair official did not respond to a request for comment.
Here's Schneider's commentary which appears on the petition:
"Geauga Lake's Wildwater Kingdom is a unique, beautiful family and wildlife treasure in Aurora, Ohio. It is a one of a kind park.
"It's current management embraces and provides a relaxed family and friendly atmosphere unmatched anywhere else. The park employs both year round and seasonal positions ranging from first year to seasoned 40-year-plus veterans.
"Wildwater Kingdom is not just a clean and gorgeous water park, it's much, much more. They schedule regular visits from Jungle Terry bringing wildlife up close for a fun engaging learning experience.
"ON FRIDAY nights throughout July and August, they host family movie nights at their massive wave pool. Upon request, guests can schedule family birthday parties on the patio out on the lake. Parents can buy children food to feed the fish out on the bridge.
"There is an at "home" feeling in the kids play area featuring Little Tikes ride on toys. The wave pool is large enough that guests can swim in the shallow end with their young children. The park provides life jackets. They also allow water toys where most parks do not.
"Wildwater Kingdom boosts our local economy. It provides a safe and affordable family atmosphere where its guests can buy day or season passes. By taking away this park we lose.
"When we go there we can tell stories of our childhood, family trips there and picnics. It's our getaway from daily life. Generation after generation has come here to this secluded area to enjoy time with family and friends.
"When I come here the excitement from my childhood visits comes alive. The walk down to the main gate reminds me how exciting it was and still is just being there. As I walk through the park memories flood my mind with each step. Buildings and bricks.
"I never thought the landscape as a child would be etched into my mind the way it is. I love it here. This is my favorite place in the world. It has my heart."
According to local news reports, patrons at the park on its final day said they had a mixture of sadness and anger at the closing.
This year's closing follows the closing of the amusement park side of Geauga Lake after the 2007 season.
Aurora and Bainbridge Township officials are working with Cedar Fair on a master plan for the 650-acre property. Mixed-use development is being planned.
Bainbridge Township is talking with officials from the Meijer store chain to bring a superstore to 41 acres, while a movie production facility also has been discussed as a future use.