Yes, this park was operational when I grew up in New Jersey. It wasn’t far from where we lived. It was probably closer than Six Flags. I was too young to go, but there was no way my parents would ever let my brother and sister venture into Action Park in Vernon Township. It was where you controlled your experience. There were no rules. Literally, no rules. The park employees and ride operators were underaged, the safety regulations were never enforced, and everyone could drink beer at the kiosks. For those who remember Action Park, it was not uncommon to see a 14-year-old drinking a Bud Light while walking through the park. All of the insanity is detailed in the new documentary called “Class Action Park,” which premiered in late August on HBO/Cinemax.
You can’t make this stuff up.
Let’s start with the rides. There were no engineering graduates designing these things. In fact, there was zero engineering at all. The Cannonball Loop, which you’ll see in the trailer was a real ride, and yes—many broken and bloody noses, along with teeth being lodged in the tubing from the force of the slide were found when an emergency hatch had to be installed at the top of the loop to free riders who got stuck.
Action Park was a water and amusement park that was divided by Route 94. Motorworld featured go-carts, battle tanks, and speed boats. Yes, people got loaded and then ventured on down here later in the afternoon. The speed boats cruised in a lake that was filled with snakes and polluted by leaking gasoline. Battle Tanks featured some patron sneaking in a can of gasoline, which this person used to set the tennis balls from which you fired through a cannon on fire onto other patrons. And staff found out a way to bypass the safety mechanisms on the go-carts, allowing them to go 50-60 mph. Some employees admitted to taking these vehicles for a spin on Route 94 at off-hours.
Then, there’s the infamous Alpine Slide, where you took a ski lift and a cart, whose brakes were usually broken, up a huge hull, a mountain arguably, to then slide on down at massive speeds. If you didn’t shift your weight or brake properly, you were flying off the track. It was not meant to keep you on, and for attendees flying down the slide, which was made of concrete, you had to also deal with insane people spitting on you as you went down, with some even trying to hit you with their carts—they knocked them off their ski lifts.
Scraps were common, as were people who lost whole patches of their skin. The blood and bruises patrons experienced at Action Park certainly impacted the wave pool, which was mayhem. Some people did not know how to swim, which led to the wave machine being turned off intermittently to ensure there were no bodies at the bottom of the pool. A combination of sun lotion, runoff from the mountain, and blood from attendees’ scrapes and cuts made the pool murky at times.
And yes, tragically, people did die there. Too many, but the number of injured will probably never be known. Why? Well, because that just wasn’t founder Eugene Mulvihill’s style. The late Mulvihill had his ways to operate the park with impunity for years. He also created a fake insurance company to get around that state regulation because there would be no company sane enough to insure this park.
Donald Trump even considered investing but backed out reportedly because, well, this place was just too crazy for him.
The film is peppered with insane tales but also tempered with interviews from some of the families who lost loved ones at Action Park. Overall, it’s a pretty solid documentary about one of the most insane parks to ever come into existence.