TURNER, Oregon — It’s been a tourist attraction and family tradition in the Willamette Valley for decades, but now the future of Enchanted Forest is uncertain. The park's owners said like so many businesses, theirs is facing hard times because of COVID-19.
“It's more than just a business,” said Susan Vaslev, daughter of Enchanted Forest Founder, Roger Tofte. “Our whole history as a family is tied to Enchanted Forest.”
Opened in 1961, Enchanted Forest stretches across 20 acres just south of Salem. It’s a charming convergence of storybook trail, English village, amusement rides and more. Vaslev said it was Tofte’s dream and one he’s still realizing today.
“He's 90-years-old and he's still out there every day,” said Vaslev. “I know nothing means more to him than having somebody come up to him at the park and talk to him about what it means to them.”
Enchanted Forest was closed during half its season this year because of the pandemic. When it reopened, it was under strict social distancing guidelines. Vaslev said that limited capacity to a fraction of what they needed to meet the park's $4 million annual budget.
“Our business can hold far more people than we're being allowed to right now and still be safe,” contended Vaslev.
Vaslev said her family's focus now is on raising $500,000 to get them through the winter and prepare for next season, whatever it may bring.
“It was time to ask for help if we want to be here,” she said.
To raise the money, Vaslev’s family is auctioning off Enchanted Forest park signs, memorabilia and original art by Tofte—Vaslev said that was her father’s idea, but a tough one for her family.
“When we're deciding what paintings to auction off there's definitely a discussion of, ‘Oh I don't want to let that one go! That means too much to us!’” said Vaslev.
The family also opened a GoFundMe account. Vaslev said whether it’s bidding on an auction item, donating money or visiting the park next year, her family is grateful for every dollar shared during a difficult time for so many.
“It just means so much to feel that support,” said Vaslev. “To know that people really do care.”