Since 1886, Coney Island has woven itself into the fabric of Cincinnati history. It's a park that has ebbed and flowed along with the Ohio River in the face of floods, relocation, and rebirth. Considered at one time to be "America's Finest Amusement Park," one could argue that Coney was responsible for the creation of the contemporary amusement park. Parks of the day were often seedy and unsafe, but Coney Island had served as not only the cornerstone for what amusement parks could be, but as a springboard for what was to come. The park was a "dollar a year," salaried resource and inspiration to what some consider the greatest theme park endeavor in history: Disneyland. The evolution of Coney Island encouraged it's own demise and rebirth, but as of September 21, 2019, a major aspect of the long standing family tradition has met it's demise for the second time.
I grew up going to Sunlite Pool every summer. Personally, the ride side of the park had always held a certain level of mystique. Older family members had described the park in it's former glory and I grew up with the fantastical ideas of the Coney Island of yesterday. Venturing into the ride side as a kid was frequent enough; however, they were not as common as the countless summer afternoons spent poolside. But when the hot summer days turned to slightly cooler summer evenings and I was lucky enough to convince my mom to let my sister's and me explore the rest of the park, it was a consistently memorable experience. Unknowingly at a young age, I grew to appreciate partaking in the same activities that Coney Island guests had experienced since it was conceived. As I grew older I was able to learn more about the park and it's storied history. My fascination grew more intense as time went on. Concerts at Riverbend throughout my teens and adulthood always included time spent in the park, and I often enjoyed strolling by a dark Moonlite Gardens headed back to the parking lot as much as I enjoyed the show I had just seen.
For the last day of public ride operations I came to pay my respects not only to the demise of a long standing local tradition, but to my own passion and fascination. Dramatic? Definitely. But the park's existence has acted as a tangible connection to the past, my past, and as consistent reminder of the ever-changing landscape of age. I celebrated not by riding rides, but mindfully capturing my favorite corners of the park through the nostalgic lens of my recently purchased Polaroid OneStep +. I'm not claiming any of these are fantastic photographs, but I figured I'd share regardless. I'm by no means a photographer, but I'm pleased as to what I was able to accomplish after, uh... a few (?) mixed drinks outside of Moonlite Gardens.
The future of the park is unclear at best, and the recent shift in focus is a major loss. I'd like to believe that the decisions being made are in the best interest of Coney Island and it's future. My fear is that the lack of any major investments to the dry side of the park has resulted in it's current state and that the removal of the rides is a quick attempt to save the park as a whole. I hope I'm wrong. With that optimistic prediction, I'll end with the hope of seeing rides and that park in the next 15-20 years. You know, like last time? Coney Island has been a stubborn and resilient park for over 100 years. Here's to 100 more.