Waldameer owner Paul Nelson dies at 89

Posted | Contributed by eightdotthree

Paul Nelson, who delivered fun and thrills to generations of Erie residents and tourists as the owner of Waldameer Park & Water World, a once moribund collection of outdated rides that he transformed into a regional icon and recreational powerhouse yards away from the natural playlands of Presque Isle State Park and Lake Erie, died on Sunday. He was 89.

Read more from The Erie Times-News.

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Jeff's avatar

Here I am trying to get to three years for one job, and this guy spent his entire life, including much of his childhood, on the same thing. That's a rich and purposeful life. Interesting story about selling the carousel to save the park. I imagine the preservationists and enthusiasts of the time weren't crazy about that, even without an Internet to complain about it. My only visit to the park was I think 2008, and I really enjoyed the rides there.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

A nice article. The decision to purchase the mobile home park across the street seems smart, whether they plan to develop that in the future or merely are avoiding potential conflicts that might arise. (If I recall, the park doesn't have much room to grow - I was there around 2015 and keep meaning to get back.)

eightdotthree's avatar

I don't think there's a single person in Erie who heard this news and didn't take a moment to consider his legacy. He steered the park in a sustainable direction and kept it relevant.

$2.5 million seems like a steal for that much land that is still generating revenue. If you look at the park on Google Maps you can see just how much land they own compared to what they are currently taking up. I hope whoever is taking over has as much love the park as he did.

I'm glad he did what he did. Waldameer is a once-a-year park for me, if it was closer than 3 hours, it would be once a month. I absolutely love Ravine Flyer and they have really put the effort and money into keeping it top tier.

MF Crew 2006
Magnum's 3rd hill is the best airtime hill out of all the coasters in the world!

Could be completely unrelated, but a part of my brain wonders if he knew the end was coming and he pulled the trigger on the mobile home park to give the next generation something to develop in their own way.

That article is probably the nicest "obituary" that I've ever read. I've never been to Waldameer but it sounds like a wonderful park and a tribute to this man's vision.

I never knew the man personally or anything, but every time I visited the park, we would see him zipping around the park in his golf cart. He was a very hands-on owner who took pride in the park and you could tell he didn't stand for any crap!

Mr. Nelson did a lot during the 30+ years I have been visiting Waldameer. Main parking lot expanded, Water World doubled in size, several new rides added including one of the best wooden coasters in the world, and becoming one of the first parks in the industry to convert to the "cashless" model. While there have been a few issues with fights and even a stabbing in recent years, the park did work hard to correct those issues and I have never felt unsafe at the park whenever I have visited. The midways are always clean, the rides well-maintained, and the staff is usually friendly. I'm sure the future will be bright for Waldameer though as Mr. Gorman has been there a long time and also other family members will hopefully want to carry on Mr. Nelson's vision.

RIP Mr. Nelson. You will be missed. And thank you for the many great years of memories my family and I have had together at Waldameer.

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