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Safety is issue when people trespass on Cedar Fair land

by BOB GAETJENS | REPORTER Published: September 21, 2016 1:00 AM
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Aurora / Bainbridge -- It might be tempting to sneak a close-up peek at the Big Dipper or other former Geauga Lake attractions, but Bainbridge or Aurora police chiefs warn residents that it will get you charged with trespassing.

Bainbridge Police Chief Jon Bokovich said his department takes trespassing seriously on his side of the former Geauga Lake Park land, which includes the 1925 Big Dipper roller coaster and midway.

"From what I've seen, most [trespassers] are going over there to see the Big Dipper," he said. "That seems to be the draw."

Because of the dangers posed by the roller coaster and other structures on the property, there will be no warnings given to trespassers, said Bokovich.

"There are a lot of opportunities to be injured there," he said. "People need to think about it in terms of themselves and ask, 'Do I want people walking on my property?'"

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Despite the permanent closure Sept. 5 of Wildwater Kingdom, Aurora Police Chief Brian Byard said he believes his department's job as it relates to the Cedar Fair properties won't change much.

"It's no different than what we deal with there now," he said. "We'd likely increase patrols now that it is an abandoned or vacated property."

Byard agreed with Bokovich that most of the trespassing is by people who are curious about the state of the old park.

"It's private property, so it's more or less up to [Cedar Fair] to secure it," he said, adding some of the trespassers also are "kids going back there to swim."

On the Aurora side since Jan. 1, 2014, there have been 17 reports of trespassers, with 29 individuals being charged, according to police records. In the same period, there have been 14 reports of thefts.

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In Bainbridge, there have been 29 reports of trespassing during that period, including 24 at 1060 Aurora Road and the remainder at 1100 Squires Road, according to Bainbridge police records.

THERE ALSO were 17 reported thefts, all at the Squires Road address, and seven reports of suspicious activity on the Bainbridge side of the property.

Aurora City Councilman Jim Vaca said he hasn't heard many complaints from neighbors in the area about disturbances from trespassers at the park.

"On the Aurora side, the only things left are the security office and some of the concessions stands," he said.

Aurora Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin said the "area has certainly been an attractive nuisance, particularly with equipment, ride paraphernalia and other things."

However, she said Cedar Fair is planning to remove and dismantle much of what remains on both sides of Geauga Lake, including the Big Dipper.

"While Cedar Fair auctioned off a lot of their equipment and ride paraphernalia, there are a few things left, and both Bainbridge and Aurora are hoping to acquire them to use in our future plans for the area," she said.

The Aurora Historical Society may be interested in acquiring some of what's left, she added.

"We'd like to salvage some of the ride carts," she said. "There's a control panel for the Big Dipper and a variety of odds and ends that we're looking at, and it's my understanding Cedar Fair is willing to donate them."

She said it's in everyone's interest to remove traces of the former amusement and water parks from the property.

"If I was a potential buyer, I'd want to make sure the property was clean and secure," she said.

Bokovich said he believes the majority of trespassers on the Bainbridge side travel great distances to engage in "premeditated" trespassing to see what's left of the old park.

Email: bgaetjens@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4188

Twitter: @bobgaetjens_rpc


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J Dipper Sep 21, 2016 12:12 PM


Aurora is missing the boat here. They have a beautiful piece of property and an historic coaster,the oldestroller coaster in Ohio and seventh-oldest in the United States. I understand the liability, but someone needs to wake up and see the potential of this area with Dipper incorporated. The last thing the area needs is more homes and more stores. Once it’s gone it’s too late.