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FROM STAFF REPORTS
Bainbridge -- After nine years of idleness since Geauga Lake Park closed at the end of the 2007 season, the 91-year-old Big Dipper roller coaster will be wiped from the landscape within a couple of weeks.
According to an announcement by Sandusky-based Cedar Fair, owner of the land where the wooden coaster stands, the demolition of the roller coaster will begin soon.
"Cedar Fair Entertainment Co. has announced that the demolition of the Big Dipper roller coaster will begin in the coming weeks," the company confirmed in an Oct. 10 email.
"We have worked cooperatively with the city of Aurora and Bainbridge Township to preserve select artifacts from the ride. There are no other plans to sell, relocate or salvage the structure at this time."
Cedar Fair will continue to work with Aurora and Bainbridge on the positive future development of the property, said Bainbridge Township Trustee Jeff Markley.
He said he's disappointed the company is not making an effort to move the coaster or preserve it.
"I understand what they're doing," he said. "I guess I don't like it. The ride was rebuilt in 1979. It still has good life in it."
He said the company plans to demolish the historical coaster to cut down on trespassers curious about it.
In recent months, Bainbridge Township and Aurora police have charged dozens of people for trespassing at the site. Some were reportedly climbing on the coaster.
"They've [Cedar Fair] expressed concerns that people are breaking in and climbing on it for the purposes of taking pictures or whatever," said Markley. "For them, it's a safety concern."
"The Big Dipper is probably an attractive nuisance that should be torn down by Cedar Fair," said Aurora Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin. "We don't want people potentially hurt when they trespass."
"WE'RE SUPPOSED to see a draft of that next week," she said of a master plan for redeveloping the city's and township's Cedar Fair-owned properties.
After the park closed, the Big Dipper, along with many other rides and items, were sold at auction. A person whose identity was never revealed reportedly purchased the coaster, but it was never removed from the property.
Markley said Cedar Fair told officials the buyer's option on the coaster expired, and it reverted to Cedar Fair's ownership.
A few years ago, a group called Geauga Lake Friends posted a petition on the change.org website calling for Cedar Fair CEO Matt Quimet to make an effort to preserve the Big Dipper.
A letter to Quimet read: "Until September 2007, the Big Dipper was the oldest operating wooden coaster in Ohio, and the seventh oldest operating roller coaster in the USA (12th oldest in the world). It is an ACE Coaster Landmark and ACE Coaster Classic.
"Since Cedar Fair dismantled Geauga Lake and its rides in 2007, the Dipper has stood awaiting its fate, but it is still standing. Many efforts have been put forth to save this coaster, but none have succeeded, yet.
"The Big Dipper meets many of the Ohio Historic Preservation Office's National Register criteria. Please consider saving this historical coaster and part of Geauga Lake, Aurora and Bainbridge's rich history."
For nine years the coaster has remained on the property while several other rides have been sold or moved to other Cedar Fair parks. Almost all of the former park's structures have been demolished.
In August, Cedar Fair announced that Wildwater Kingdom water park would permanently close as of Labor Day, bringing to an end all activity at the 600-plus acres around Geauga Lake.
Aurora and Bainbridge Township are hoping the land will be redeveloped for mixed use. Markley said Aurora and Bainbridge continue to work with Cedar Fair to complete the master plan for the acreage's future.
The Meijer retail chain hopes to get Bainbridge approval to build a superstore on 41 acres of the property, and a film industry sound stage has been suggested as another possibility there.