TURNER, Ore. — Enchanted Forest, the popular Willamette Valley amusement park south of Salem, has delayed its planned reopening after receiving “threats and comments” from the community over planned mask requirements and safety protocols.
“Unfortunately, recent comments and threats have made clear that our community is not in agreement as to how we will interact in public places with regard to mask requirements for those who are vaccinated versus those who are not vaccinated,” the park said in a statement Tuesday.
"It's been a very, very, tough day," said Susan Vaslev, co-manager of Enchanted Forest and daughter of park founder, Rover Tofte.
While planning the reopen, Vaslev thought they had finally reached the light at the end of the tunnel after two major blows. First, the pandemic forced them to close during half their season in 2020. When it reopened, the park’s capacity was too small to meet its annual budget so the owners auctioned off signs and other memorabilia to raise money. They also started a GoFundMe and asked for donations raising more than $350,000 to save the park and keep it insured.
In February, an ice storm caused numerous trees to fall and damage the park, delaying the reopen once again for extensive repairs.
"We were ecstatic that we were finally to this point," said Vaslev. "We posted yesterday that we were reopening and our COVID guidelines."
In order to go mask-free on park grounds, the park had originally mandated that visitors would need to show their vaccine card. That would get them a bracelet to wear, letting park employees know that they'd been checked. Vaslev said while many people appreciated the guidelines, others were beyond angry.
"They just saw it as as an invasion of their rights," said Vaslev. "There were threats, there was harassment and it still continues right now... We just don't feel we can safely open."
That all happened before Tuesday's update from state health officials.
The Oregon Health Authority now recommends that all people-- vaccinated or not-- can go mask-free if they are outdoors. Vaslev said she would follow those guidelines when its safe to reopen the park, but given recent threats, she's not sure when that will be.
"Every weekend lost hurts incredibly," said Vaslev. "We appreciate everybody's support, and we will work through this one way or another, it's just not in the cards to open right now."
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that nationally, people who are vaccinated against COVID-19 don't need to wear a mask in most indoor or outdoor settings. The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) updated its rules to follow CDC guidelines, but said businesses can continue to require masks and physical distancing in their locations for all individuals, regardless of vaccination status.
Here is the full statement from Enchanted Forest:
"We have been hard at work preparing the park to reopen. We had hoped to do so this weekend with safety protocols consistent with the most up-to-date guidance from the Center for Disease Control, the Governor, and the state epidemiologist. Unfortunately, recent comments and threats have made clear that our community is not in agreement as to how we will interact in public places with regard to mask requirements for those who are vaccinated versus those who are not vaccinated.
"We recognize this is an important issue and look forward to specific guidance from our State officials as to our responsibility as a business that invites the public to be our guests. However, until we are confident we can do so safely, we will not be able to reopen. Our commitment to being a place where families can spend time together free of unnecessary hate and conflict simply outweighs our strong desire to reopen our business."