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Sherrod Brown makes plea to keep historic coaster in Ohio


Janet Nguyen

The Sandusky Register

SANDUSKY - U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown is urging Cedar Fair officials to preserve a piece of roller coaster history.

Last month Brown, D-Ohio, addressed a letter to Cedar Fair chairman, president and chief executive officer Dick Kinzel asking the company to develop a plan for Geauga Lake`s historic wooden roller coaster, The Big Dipper. In the letter, Brown said he hopes company officials will keep the ride at its current location or have it moved to another site where it can continue to operate.

"Such an important and rare piece of Ohio and amusement park history deserves the utmost consideration as Cedar Fair develops plans for the property," Brown wrote.

In September, Cedar Fair officials announced they were shutting down Geauga Lake & Wildwater Kingdom`s amusement park side because of low ticket sales.

The company said it plans to concentrate exclusively on water park operations next year. The water park will open May 24 for the 2008 season.

Richard Munch, historian for the American Coaster Enthusiasts group, said Brown`s letter is good news.

"The word is getting out that this should be saved," he said.

Munch said the group had heard a few months ahead of time that Geauga Lake would close its amusement park. When the news was announced, the coaster enthusiasts became active. The group reached out to local developers interested in keeping the historic wooden coaster and building a mixed-use project around it. The 500-acre tract of land is also up for sale.

Munch, who is also a board member for the National Roller Coaster Museum and Archives, referred to several mixed-use developments with rides and attractions that have been successful.

In response to the senator`s letter, Cedar Fair spokeswoman Stacy Frole said nothing has changed.

The Big Dipper and two other roller coasters are listed for sale.

"We currently have the Big Dipper up for sale. Any interested party has the opportunity to buy those assets," she said. "We`re doing every effort to move these rides to other locations where they might have value."

Frole also said if the rides don`t sell, they will be auctioned.

Kinzel was out of town on business Wednesday and could not be reached for comment.

Brown`s letter urged Cedar Fair officials to preserve the 82-year-old wooden coaster.

"Ideally, keeping The Big Dipper in its Aurora, Ohio, home would be preferable - perhaps by including the coaster as part of a mixed-use retail and amusement complex or as part of a classic amusement park museum. However, as Cedar Fair makes final decisions on the future of the Dipper, I strongly urge against destroying or scrapping this unique piece of Buckeye State history," Brown wrote.

Munch said the ride has played a major role in many people`s lives, and he hopes it can continue providing fond memories for many more years.

"This is for Ohio. This isn`t for me," he said. "Something has to be saved from this site. It`s important to keep history, because once it`s gone, it`s gone."

The historic coaster had two previous identities before it became known as The Big Dipper. It first opened as the Sky Rocket in 1925 and was renamed Clipper in the late 1940s. In 1969, the name changed to the Big Dipper. The wooden ride is a John Miller coaster and is only one of 13 coasters of its kind left in the world. Miller was a prolific inventor in the early 1900s who had more than 100 patents and designed many safety devices still used in today`s coasters.

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