AURORA — Many Northeast Ohioans have said in recent years that they miss Geauga Lake Park and would like to see some kind of amusement park return to the 600-acre site straddling Aurora and Bainbridge Township.
One Northeast Ohioan is making an attempt to bring back a park, and he has established a GoFundMe account to raise $20 million to buy the land from Cedar Fair of Sandusky.
Brian Roote of Independence said on his GoFundMe page that people spent many summers at Geauga Lake between 1887 and 2007, and "it seems like a sin" to sell off the land for private use since it is "so historically dedicated to amusement."
"You have the power to bring back one of your most sacred childhood memories for future generations to come, because this time Geauga Lake is here to stay," he continued on the page.
But if Roote’s fundraising effort does not reach the established goal, he said the money donated will either go to a charity or be refunded to the donors depending on their wishes.
The charity which donors chose through a survey posted on the GoFundMe page — www.gofundme.com/GeaugaLakeIsBack — was to be announced Tuesday night on the page and at www.GeaugaLake.us.
The choices are Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Funtime Amusements, Aurora Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 29 and A Kid Again.
When contacted by the Advocate, Roote said he’s "hoping to make something happen" at the site. "Acquiring the land is the first step, then cleaning it up is next," he said. "I’d like to see it go from a wasteland to an oasis."
Roote, who described himself as "a huge amusement park fan," added, "Yeah, we realize this project is massive and seems impossible. However, all we need is you [the public]."
As of noon March 12, he had raised only $1,034 toward his goal.
"I’ve talked to countless people who say they miss the park and would love to see amusements return there," Roote said. "It would be great if we could get some very large donors interested in supporting the cause. Small donations are welcome, too.
"We want to raise the funds to purchase the property .... and deliver it back to the people," he said. "We will rehabilitate the park close to its nostalgic state, while upgrading amenities and updating safety precautions."
The current GoFundMe account is set up to raise only enough money to acquire the land.
But Roote has laid out a five-phase plan to reconstruct a park which could approach an investment of more than $350 million, including land acquisition and rehabilitation, construction of attractions and a possible hotel.
"It would be great to turn it into a resort-type of atmosphere," he said.
Roote said about $30 million would be needed once the park is operational, which would allow updates and "make it the most pleasurable experience available in Ohio. This will help ensure this beautiful park never decays to the state it is in currently."
Geauga Lake Park was closed after the 2007 season, and Wildwater Kingdom closed after the 2016 season. Very few structures remain on the property. One of them still there is the ballroom along Route 43.
Previous owners of the park in the latter half of the 1900s and into the 2000s were Funtime and Premier Parks (Six Flags). Sea World of Ohio occupied the south side of Geauga Lake from 1970 to 2004.
Reporter Ken Lahmers can be reached at 330-541-9400 ext. 4189 or firstname.lastname@example.org