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Ghost Town opening delayed again: Park hammering out ride inspection glitches

After two false starts, Ghost Town in the Sky theme park in Maggie Valley remains closed this week.


Leaders with the mountaintop amusement park hope to get up and running soon — they just aren’t saying when.

“I don’t want to say until we are closer to it,” said General Manager Mike Matthews.

“We don’t want to do any announcements until we know for sure that we will open.”

The park had advertised its grand opening as Memorial Day weekend but failed to request mandatory state inspections of its rides and chairlift in time. State inspectors need at least 10 days advance notice.

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So amusement park officials pushed the opening day back a week, but it still didn’t open because Ghost Town’s chairlift and kiddy rides failed inspections.

“We didn’t anticipate having the hang ups that we did,” Matthews said. “Any business has to go through the same thing.”

Employees with the N.C. Department of Labor were on-site May 30 and 31 looking over the chairlift that takes visitors to the mountaintop amusement park. Also on tap for inspections were a small train that runs around the Wild West Town and three kiddy rides.

The chairlift failed the state review last week after inspectors found cracks in the chairs. Pressley will need to replace the broken chairs before they can be re-inspected.

“They found at least six cracks. That happens when they are stored over the winter,” said Dolores Quesenberry, a spokeswoman with the Department of Labor.

The chairs should be properly stored indoors and in a way that no water collects on them, Quesenberry said. Otherwise, freezing moisture could cause cracking.

The chairlift also failed inspections because it lacks a navigable escape route down the mountain. The state requires an evacuation route in case the chairlift breaks down and passengers have to be evacuated. The terrain below the chairlift is steep and difficult to walk on foot, requiring a means of egress to be constructed. The lack of an evacuation route has been an ongoing source of consternation for inspectors, but apparently the state finally drew the line this year and forced Ghost Town to make accommodations by building a paved road up the mountain under the lift.

“They have made progress, but it’s still not ready,” Quesenberry said. 

Had the chairlifts been the only thing to fail state inspection, amusement park employees could still have hauled visitors up the mountain in its two busses, which together can accommodate 45 people.

Matthews said new chairs are already ordered and should arrive this week. Workers are also expected to finish the escape route by the end of next week. 

The choo-choo train that runs around the Wild West Town has also failed inspection, as did three kiddy rides. The kiddy rides have electrical problems and had other more minor issues.

Ghost Town employees were able to fix the problems with the kiddy rides and will call state inspectors back for a visit on Wednesday, June 5. 

“The state is working with us the best they can,” Matthews said. “They want us to be open just as bad as we want to be open.”

Struggling to open seems the standard for Ghost Town. The once popular amusement park piggybacked on the success of westerns, when every little kid wanted to be a cowboy. But in the 1990s, visitation to the park declined and it closed.

Pressley purchased the amusement park out of foreclosure and vowed to bring it back. Thus far, she has invested more than $3.5 million in Ghost Town.

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