The historic Oakland Amusement Park, which once inspired Walt Disney to build Disneyland and entertained families on the north shore of Lake Merritt for 70 years, is going through uncertain times.

“We don’t have a reopening date. We don’t have endless money. We have no reserves in Fairyland,” park executive director Kymberly Miller told SFGATE.

The popular amusement park that has served as a petting zoo, theme park, education center, and green space for young families since 1950, closed its iconic shoe entrance in March due to the closure of the COVID-19. At that time, 46 employees were put on leave, losing their income.

In April, the park received $ 400,000 in the first round of the government’s $ 660 billion US paycheck protection program.

After receiving the money, Miller immediately reinstated the employees on leave and paid them.

“The PPP money was spent entirely on the payroll, it allowed us to bring everyone back, even those who couldn’t physically come back to work. It was my priority, helping people in these difficult times. “We kept them close and talked to them every week. We took that path, we used PPP for what it was intended for.”

Fairyland lost over $ 1 million in revenue during the shutdown. The animals alone cost the park about $ 20,000 per month. (The menagerie includes miniature horses, Nigerian dwarf goats, and a bearded dragon).

But on Tuesday of last week, that money ran out and Miller was forced to lay off 33 workers again. “We ran through this dough this week. We had to put our staff back on leave on Tuesday,” she said.

During this time, park officials remained optimistic and strategized to reopen safely, targeting July for reopening.

“We have spent the past two months tightening our protocols on a safe reopening against COVID, reducing capacity from 2,500 to 700, and shutting down interior aspects of our park, including the rides and the music tunnel,” said Miller said. “The focus will instead be on the park’s small zoo and educational areas.”

But then came the recent surge in COVID-19 infections across California and the country, forcing that plan to postpone indefinitely.

Miller believes there is some incongruity in the county over what is allowed to reopen.

“There is some confusion over what is considered low risk. We are an outdoor facility that can provide a bit of a breather for our constituents, with protocols in place, while other indoor locations cannot. . There is a little problem there, “she said.

If and when the park resumes its activities, the opening hours will also adapt with a morning session and an afternoon session, allowing time for a site clean-up during the lunch break.

“The majority of the site is outside, and we think we could give people a big advantage during the COVID crisis. It hasn’t happened yet. We just want to see how we can resume support for the little ones. “Miller mentioned.

Fairyland has been able to run a smaller summer day camp in recent weeks by reversing its processes to comply with county mandates calling for smaller cohorts and children who sign up for a “bubble” of three. weeks, defined by Alameda County. as “a group of 12 people or less who can socialize together but only outdoors”.

Miller is still hoping that a reopening in August is possible.

When asked if she had thought about the possibility of shutting down Fairyland for good, “Oh sure. Every day,” Miller said. “If we don’t open in August, we’ll have to think very differently about what that means.”

A relief fund has been created for help the park here.


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Andrew Chamings is an editor at SFGATE. Email: [email protected] | Twitter: @AndrewChamings

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