Mount Union College Senior Michael Costello Authors Book on Conneaut Lake Park
April 22, 2010
For Michael Costello, a senior at Mount Union College, going to an amusement park in the 1980s was always memorable, complete with merry-go-rounds, bumper cars and roller coasters.
One park in particular for the Ellwood City, Pa. resident has become a personal obsession ' he is on a mission to see that Conneaut Lake Park in Conneaut Lake, Pa. stays open. As small, independent amusement parks give way to mega parks, Conneaut remains quaint ' a throwback to the parks of yesteryear.
One of the ways Costello is bringing attention to the park is through the authoring of the book "Conneaut Lake Park" as part of the Images of America Series by Arcadia Publishing. The book which is being released in June, features historical and modern day pictures that will conjure up memories of the "park that refuses to die."
Founded in 1892 as Exposition Park, a permanent fair exhibiting machinery and livestock with a few rides thrown in, the area became known as Conneaut Lake amusement park in 1920. Until the last two decades, the park thrived as a family park that featured exciting rides, miniature golf, arcades, water rides and a full service hotel.
The park has struggled in recent years. At one point a group took over the park and tried to turn it into a modern day experience including a high-priced admittance fee that would cover all the rides. While that strategy has become the American norm, it did not work at Conneaut where visitors had become accustomed to entering the park free and paying as they go.
According to Costello, currently the park is operating with a strong volunteer force and a small group of paid employees. Costello has been doing his part using his business administration major at Mount Union and internship experience at Cedar Point to put together marketing materials that include the book, the park map, a documentary and an enhanced web site at conneautlakepark.com.
Prior to his current involvement, Costello has worked at the park at various times including a stint as the park mascot, Connie Otter. He is a member of the American Coaster Enthusiasts and maintains a web site called Mike's Historic Amusement Parks.
"The proceeds from the book will go directly to the park," Costello said. "One of the ways to get the park back on its feet is to encourage volunteerism and to use creative fund-raising. It is evident that the park needs to build on its history and we need to walk the fine line between becoming too modern and yet appeal to visitors of all ages."
Costello has had experience in three facets of park management through his internship at Cedar Point ' accommodations, games and merchandise. "These are three major revenue producing areas that we hope will get Conneaut back on its feet and thriving," Costello said.
Not surprisingly, one of Costello's goals after graduation is to run Conneaut Lake Park. Given his efforts at revival so far, it would be tough to bet against him.