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Water / Amusement Park: Waldameer and Water World – a Potted History

Related: Sharkarosa Wildlife Ranch / Sandcastle Water Park / Frank Buck Zoo / Clyde Peelings's Reptiland

Waldameer and Water World is both an amusement park and water park located in Erie, Pennsylvania.

The amusement park’s location was formerly known as ‘Hoffman’s Grove’ which was a popular picnic spot overlooking the lake in the late 1800s. Because of its picturesque location and its increasing popularity, the city’s main trolley company at the time, the Erie Electric Motor Company, decided to lease the grove and renamed it ‘Waldameer’ – a German term meaning ‘woods by the sea’ and so in 1896, Waldameer Park was born.

In the first two decades of the 20th century, a dance hall and carousel were added but it would be the 1920s, under the general management of Alex Moeller, until the amusement park would really take off. He added the Ravine Flyer rollercoaster which became the amusement park’s flagship ride as well as many other rides and attractions.

The Great Depression of the 1930s and, subsequently, World War 2 would slow down any further expansion but in the late 1940s and 50s and now the owner of the park, Alex Moeller along with an 11-year old family friend, Paul Nelson, began expanding the amusement park further beginning with building a new dance hall as the previous one had burned down in 1937. More rides were also added to the amusement park during this period.

In 1965, Alex Moeller died but Paul Nelson (who had gone on to be adopted by the Moellers) took over and immediately set to work in improving the amusement park’s infrastructure which had started to age. From the mid-60s and for the next 20 years, Paul added many more rides and attractions to the amusement park including the Whacky Shack, Pirate’s Cove, Paratrooper, Spider and the L. Ruth Express Train which was named after Alex Moeller’s widow.

In 1985, Paul Nelson decided to take a huge gamble when he decided to go into debt to launch Water World a year later but this would prove to be a great success.

Throughout this century, Paul has continued to make the amusement park even better. One of his proudest achievements came in 2008 when his dream of seeing the Ravine Flyer soar again came into reality with the launch of Ravine Flyer II. Not only did this fulfil Paul’s lifelong ambition but it also won the Golden Ticket Award for the ‘best new ride in the world for 2008 by Amusement Today.

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