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Ghost Town lacks ride inspections in advance of July opening

The clock is ticking for Ghost Town in the Sky entertainment park in Maggie Valley to get its humble trio of kiddie rides inspected and permitted before its target opening day of July 2.

Amusement rides must be inspected annually, but state ride inspectors hadn’t heard a peep from Ghost Town yet this year as of press time Tuesday.

Once Ghost Town asks for an inspection, the turnaround time for a site visit is about 10 days, according to Neal O’Briant, spokesperson for the N.C. Elevator and Amusement Device Bureau.

If the rides don’t pass the first time, a follow-up can take another two weeks or more.

Ghost Town hasn’t requested an inspection of its chairlift yet either.

The chairlift is the chief way patrons reach the park. Ghost Town is perched on top of a mountain, but it doesn’t have a parking lot on top to accommodate the general public — so a functional chairlift is critical for visitors to get up to the park.

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This is the fourth year in a row that Ghost Town has waited until the last minute to request ride inspections from the N.C. Elevator and Amusement Device Bureau. 

Ghost Town has routinely missed opening day targets in past years due to inspection hiccups, according to a review of inspection reports from the N.C. Elevator and Amusement Device Bureau. 

Ghost Town advertised a Memorial Day weekend opening in 2013 and 2014. But both years, the park didn’t open until July Fourth weekend due to inspection delays — in part because the initial inspection wasn’t requested far enough in advance.

The previous owners of Ghost Town also had a similar pattern of waiting too late to request ride inspections and not being able to open on time as a result.

Of course, there’s not a lot of rides to inspect these days — the park has only three kiddie rides for the under four-feet-tall set.

Ghost Town used to have several adult rides in its heyday — including a signature roller coaster — but they fell into disrepair one by one over the years. The skeletons of some of the defunct rides are still scattered around the park.

The chairlift is the only remaining attraction for adults other than wandering about the handful of buildings in the small mock-up of an Old West town and watching a staged gunfight and cancan saloon show.

The lack of rides for adults is a top complaint of visitors posting unflattering reviews on TripAdvisor. This year, Ghost Town makes it clear on the home page of its website that there are no adult rides. Tickets to the park are advertised as $24.95 if you take the chairlift up or $19.95 if you take a bus ride to the top.

Ghost Town was shuttered in the early 2000s when its founder and long-time owner got too old to run it anymore. It sputtered back to life briefly in the mid-2000s under new owners but struggled with image problems, financial issues, mismanagement and disrepair, eventually landing in bankruptcy, before its current owner, Alaska Presley, an elderly Maggie Valley businesswoman, bought it out of foreclosure.

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