El Dorado Frontier may soon be closing permanently as the owner says the city has failed to address ongoing concerns about public safety at El Dorado Park.
“It’s really important for people to understand that this isn’t about money,” said Patrick Wolovich, owner of El Dorado Frontier. “If we have no support and no safety, then what’s the point.”
The potential closure was first reported by the Press-Telegram.
Ever since he was a kid, Wolovich dreamed of creating his own theme park. In 2018, that dream became a reality when he expanded on what was previously known as the Caboose Corners and created a small Western-style theme park for families now known as El Dorado Frontier.
But after nearly five years, Wolovich says he is thinking of calling it quits, prompted by what he says is a lack of concern from city officials to invest in the public safety of park-goers and business owners alike at El Dorado Park.
“It’s devastating,” Wolovich said about the possibility of closing the theme park. “We don’t want to leave, but I don’t have a choice. I can’t keep doing this dance with (city officials).”
The city’s Parks, Recreation and Marine Department, for its part, is working on improving conditions at the city’s 166 parks, according to officials, starting with the addition of more resources through a new Park Safety Ambassador program aimed at keeping park amenities clean.
“We’re hopeful that it will have a good impact and that people will feel safer going into a park that’s clean and maintained,” said department spokesperson Jane Grobaty.
Since starting construction on the park nearly five years ago, Wolovich says that El Dorado Frontier has been plagued by a number of break-ins resulting in tens of thousands of dollars in items stolen and property damage.
Over the years, the situation has only worsened, according to Wolovich, who says city officials have continued to ignore concerns and suggestions to invest in the park ranger program as a way to improve safety for park-goers.
To Wolovich’s disappointment, Long Beach officials have instead proposed to eliminate the “park ranger” classification altogether, which would involve moving hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Long Beach Police Department budget to the Parks, Recreation and Marine Department for the Park Safety Ambassador Program.
The new program, which is expected to roll out by early May, will send workers to clean and maintain bathrooms several times a day and lock them at night.
Parks workers already clean and open up restrooms in the mornings and check them again later in the day. However, the additional staffing will allow the city’s park maintenance team to tend to park bathrooms—which are sometimes vandalized or used for illicit activities—multiple times a day to make sure they are being used for only what’s intended, according to the city.
“I’m not hopeful it will make a difference—I’m confident it will make a difference,” Hurley Owens, bureau manager for park maintenance operations, told the Post earlier this month about the ambassador program.
In addition to helping maintain park bathrooms, ambassadors will also get safety training from the Long Beach Police Department and will be able to call on officers if they need help.
But Wolovich, who is petitioning to save the park ranger program, says city officials are only making a bad situation worse by putting ambassadors, who are unarmed, in harm’s way.
“Somebody is going to get hurt,” Wolovich said. “Other cities have tried (the ambassador program), and it falls apart.”
Wolovich called into question the effectiveness of ambassadors altogether, referencing a recent brawl in West Hollywood that was caught on video where an ambassador can be seen standing by, calling authorities while the fight goes on.
Wolovich said the video of the incident demonstrates how ambassadors don’t offer any practical use, since anyone can pick up the phone and call 911.
“Its about principle and the safety of the parks,” Wolovich said. “They’re taking away rangers and bringing in people to do a job they’re already paying people to do.”
It’s not exactly clear when Wolovich plans to cease operations at El Dorado Frontier.
He says he has already advised the city about the possibility of leaving and demolishing the business if the two sides can’t come to a resolution soon, but he’s yet to hear back from anyone.
“If (city officials) came back and said, ‘Let’s figure something about it,’ I’d be happy to talk about it,” Wolovich said. “But I don’t want to waste my time talking about nothing.”
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