The new documentary Class Action Park on HBO Max elicited two main reactions when I watched it: absolute horror and genuine curiosity. The film tells the story of a New Jersey water park called Action Park, which was super popular in the ’80s. The place was notorious for essentially having no rules. The rides were incredibly dangerous, and people got hurt on a regular basis. Five people even died at the park in the years it was open. But what allowed it to remain open for so long when it was so obviously dangerous? That’s a huge thing the movie tries to explain.
Part of the reason it happened is because the founder, Eugene “Gene” Mulvihill, had access to a lot of money and was friendly with powerful people within Vernon, New Jersey, where the water park was. He died in 2012 though. So what happened to the park after its heyday? And what’s the deal with it today? Here’s what we know.
Most importantly, is the park still open?
Yeah, let’s get this out of the way. A water park still exists on the same piece of land where Action Park once was, but it’s under different ownership and it goes by a different name. It’s called Mountain Creek Waterpark. The original rides that were so dangerous are gone now. It’s a lot more family-friendly.
Okay, so how did we get to this point?
Great question. So the version of the park that was depicted in the documentary officially closed in 1996 for many reasons. First, as the movie suggests, it became too costly, legally, for Mulvihill to keep it open. People were suing the park left and right (fair enough). And the park’s holding company had a huge amount of debt it couldn’t pay off. Basically, the park ran out of cash, so when it came time for the park to reopen for the 1997 summer season, it…didn’t.
Who bought the park after that?
A resort group bought the park in 1997 and pumped a bunch of money into revamping the entire thing. It reopened in 1998 under the name Mountain Creek. That’s when most of the original rides were removed. That company owned it until 2010.
Wait, but how did Mulvihill come back into the picture?
Well, here’s where the plot twist really happens. In 2010, a group of people, including Mulvihill, worked on an effort to buy back the park. They were successful, so suddenly, Mulvihill was once again in charge of Action Park. Unreal! It stayed open under the name Mountain Creek, though, and Mulvihill died in 2012. In 2014, his son decided they should start using the name Action Park again, so they revived the old branding. In 2015, a different family took control of the park and reverted to the Mountain Creek name in 2016. Is your head spinning yet?
Okay, but who owns it now?!
In 2018, a guy named Joe Hession acquired controlling interest of the park. He was an employee at the OG Action Park when he was a teenager, so it’s a truly wild full-circle moment. You can visit the current version of the park today, if you really wanted. Look how wholesome!
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