CONNEAUT LAKE, Pa. (KDKA) – There was nothing firefighters could do when they were called to a raging, early morning fire in Conneaut Lake Park.
Hours later, smoking rubble had replaced a 77-year-old Beach Club and the Dockside banquet hall.
It’s a bitter pill for those who have struggled to keep the park open, in spite of previous fires and declining attendance.
Despite its problems, Conneaut Lake Park is a destination for families who keep coming back, year after year. Families like the Weimers, from Butler.
“I’ve come up here when I was in high school for field trips, and it’s really tough to see,” says Eric Weimer.
His wife, Shelly Weimer, agrees.
“I’ve been coming up here my whole life and have family that has a cottage up here, and we’ve always been here, and we look forward to coming here, and it’s just really sad,” she said.
The park’s most recent setback comes as a shock to three generations of the DeMatty family of Robinson.
“It’s a nice family park and it’s close to Pittsburgh,” Alice DeMatty says. “It’s just a nice park.”
Daughter Roberta DeMatty agrees.
“We were really upset about it,” she said. “We’ve gone for the past 20 years. We’ve enjoyed it. My granddaughter really enjoys Kiddieland.”
Son Chris DeMatty also has his say, “After everything that’s happened before, and now there’s another fire. It’s pretty upsetting.”
The cause of the fire is not yet determined. Fire investigators will sift through debris, as park trustees like Dick Williams consider the future.
Williams first came to the park as a child.
“I go back a while,” he says. “I was on the previous board when the Dreamland Ballroom burned. So I’ve been through this fire thing now. Hopefully, we’ll take things this year again, but this doesn’t help us here.”
Michelle Miles is co-owner of a marina which borders the burned out buildings.
“We were just lucky that no one was injured,” she says, “and all of the boats are still floating, and some of the repairs we can take care of. And I know the boats over here are insured.”
“I’m a lifelong resident of Conneaut,” he says, “and I love the park.”
Park rides and the Park Conneaut Hotel were unaffected.