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Chippewa Lake Amusement Park

Despite the fact that you haven't been able to buy a ticket here since 1978, people continue to plan trips to Chippewa Lake Amusement Park to see the sights and ride the rides––in a way. Not one of them still operates or even has many moving parts anymore, but in some ways the stark emptiness of the rotten roller coaster frame is more fascinating than any Cedar Point or King's Island.

Nearly every ride that was here when the park closed for good almost two decades ago is still here in some form. The most prominent feature­­––

the skeletal wooden roller coaster that winds its way around three sides of the property––was basically nameless, though it was usually referred to as the Big Dipper or Big Coaster. A smaller steel roller coaster, the Little Dipper, lies in rusted pieces in the woods, as does what's left of the Wild Mouse. One truly constant feature of the grounds at Chippewa Lake is the vegetation; not only are the paths and roads overgrown with weeds and high grass, but entire trees have grown up through roofs, between rails on the coaster tracks, on ride platforms. The ferris wheel is barely visible between the leaves of the huge tree that's grown up through the middle of it, taller than the wheel itself.

There has been a park of some sort on this bank of Chippewa Lake since the 1840s. Until 1878 it was little more than a picturesque lakeside spot popular with picnickers, generally known as the Pleasure Grounds. There was organized canoeing during the warm months at the Pleasure Grounds, as well as Fourth of July celebrations. In 1878, when the park became official, amusements were added, starting with a steamboat and a primitive roller coaster. The first coaster, like others of its time, was little more than a coal bucket on small-gauge tracks sloping down a single hill. Workers would haul the single car back up the hill after each trip down.

In the twentieth century the Beach family––first Mac and then his son Parker oversaw the park during its real glory days. In the years before and after Prohibition, the midway, rides, and pier at Chippewa Lake were second to none in the state of Ohio. People rented cabins along the lake during the season just to be near the park, which allowed patrons to rent boats as well as ride the landlocked rides. The end came when Parker Beach sold the park to Continental Business Enterprises in 1969; though the company had big plans for Chippewa Lake, nothing materialized, and they soon found themselves struggling just to keep it in operation. Competition from nearby Cedar Point, just beginning to assert itself as one of the world's leading parks, was a major factor in Chippewa

Lake's demise. The 1978 season was its last. Everything of value that could be moved out was sold at auction, and the rest was left to rust and rot amid the wild vegetation. The ballroom, Chippewa Lake's signature building, stood until 2002, when a little girl playing inside caught it on fire.
Today a small housing community lines what was once the park's driveway, houses built in the shadow of the Big Dipper. The park's roadside sign and ticket booth now point the way to the Chippewa Lake Community, people who are used to watching cars park around the corner and curiosity seekers make their way through the scrub woods and into what remains of one of Ohio's early amusement parks.

Weird Ohio

 

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