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This 750-acre amusement park started as a summer resort in the early 1900s, and has seen its share of changes over the years. When Six Flags purchased Geauga Lake Amusement Park in the late 1990s everyone expected more changes. The public expected renovations to the existing attractions, and some state-of-the-art additions. Some general spruce-ups were needed around the park and additional plantings would be required for the new attractions. Area businesses expected increases in revenues generated by these renovations, as well as from new visitors to the park. We realized that several different landscape companies would have to be working on several different projects in different areas of the park at the very same time! That was our first clue that this project would be unlike any other project we had undertaken in the past. Handling the Parking Lot The Parking Lot seemed like the perfect place to start -- away from all the activity of the other trades working in the park. A circular drive was created around an island consisting of two large raised beds with a walkway between them. The fill soil used to create the beds was used from an on-site stockpile. We rented a bulldozer and set it and man on the top of the stockpile. Two dump trucks ran soil to the beds for two days, and each bed took approximately 100 yards of soil. Stamped concrete walkways circled the beds and benches were added for waiting pedestrians. Maple trees lined the center of the beds with Burning Bush planted at their feet, while Daylillies brought color to the planting. The area was beautiful as well as functional. (One year later everything was torn out to make room for a new roller coaster. All the trees and shrubs were removed and saved in the parks' nursery and greenhouses for transplanting in other areas.) Taming the Lazy River The Lazy River was the second area of the park to be landscaped. At this attraction guests would float lazily down a river in an inner tube. The theme for the water areas is of course, tropical. In Ohio we don't get much of a call for tropical plants, let alone palm trees! The palms were bought in Florida and trucked to Ohio. On the day they arrived it was snowing! The palms were unloaded and healed in next to the greenhouse in the nursery. The palm trees took the cold and were no worse for the wear. The design called for the planting of the island located in the center of the 15 foot wide river. We needed to get a 20-foot tall palm across the river to plant on the island. The concrete around the river had just been poured a few weeks before and there were restrictions on how much weight could be on the concrete. That meant no crane! Our excavators didn't have enough lifting capacity singularly, but two machines could do it together. Both excavators were positioned so that they were tipped into the river and together they were able to get the palm across. We also had to place boulders and plant shrubs on the island as well. We decided to float the material across the river on sheets of plywood with a man on the bow and a man on the stern. Buckets replaced wheel barrows and all went well. Bright red Hibiscus lined the lazy river and completed the tropical look. Shipwreck Falls (TM) is at the edge of the water area, and is the beginning of the tropical theme. Palms and Hibiscus tied this boat ride to the water areas and from the dry side hinted at the tropical feel waiting in the areas ahead. An old fishing boat was placed at the waters' edge with its anchor on shore for that shipwrecked effect. We hadn't used that type of garden statuary before. There was always something new at every area of the park we worked in. Another new factor was the almost constant spray of water created from the boat plunging down a 50-foot waterfall. The palm trees were sure to be able to handle the waters' spray, after all they withstood the coastal fury on a regular basis. Facing Hurricane Harbor Hurricane Harbor is the adult water area where the tropical theme was continued. A new wave pool was being constructed along side of a busy state route. A black wrought iron fence and approximately fifty feet are all that separate the pool from the busy four-lane road. Screening was definitely in order! We used evergreen trees. We all had the same thought you're having: "Evergreens in the Tropics?" But it worked -- the area was far enough away from the tropical plantings that the Evergreens didn't look out of place We're all so familiar with seeing Evergreen trees along the roadside that it seemed to fit. A few Pom Pom Junipers were used among the tropical plants to tie everything together. It seems like those were the only familiar plant materials at Hurricane Harbor. Landscaping for Looney Tunes Looney Tunes BoomTown is a 2.5-acre family playground set amid a host of zany Looney Tunes characters inventing, building and experimenting with "Acme" products. Imagine carpenters, plumbers, electricians, masons, painters, and of course landscapers all working together to finish their jobs in the setting of a cartoon, complete with giant-scaled blueprints designed by the Looney Tunes characters. It had to be a dream come true for more than one of those tradesmen. This section of the park was a no-brainer. Mass planting of colorful spring blooming shrubs such as PJM Rhododendron, Spirea and Weigela was completed. Sandstone boulder walls were used to control erosion on the slope of the entrance. Riverstone was used in the beds to carry the look throughout the entrance. Just as we finished with the stone, the paved surfaces had been completed, (it seems like the cement crews were the only ones on schedule), so access was restricted. The remainder of top soil and mulch was brought in via one John Deere Gator, which received glaring stares from the Project Supervisor each time it drove by. With Opening Day quickly approaching, more help was needed to finish the details. In our case, the details consisted of hundreds of flats of brightly colored annuals to match the colors of the crazy cartoon town. Office personnel, friends, and family members were recruited to help plant. Most of them were quick to agree to help, since they hadn't seen their loved one much over the past month. They all developed a new appreciation for their landscaper by the end of the project. Superman Ultimate Escape (TM) is the worlds' first vertical spiraling coaster. It was really exciting to work on a project like this. After the ride was tested, the tradesman got to test it out for themselves. The task at hand here was to create a stable maintenance access road at the street side of the coaster. We dug out an area 14 feet wide and 250 feet long for the road. One hundred tons of #304 gravel was laid on top of Geotextile fabric and tamped with a roller. Ten tons of #10 limestone screenings were used under Unilocks' Turfstone(TM) paving stones. The pavers have diamond shaped cavities, which are filled with soil and then hydro-seeded over to create a very stable turfgrass access road. Keeping the access areas covered with turf grass was a great way of softening the look of the brightly colored coaster, and disguising the maintenance road. The Challenge of X-Flight X-Flight(TM) is the park's tenth roller coaster and perhaps the most challenging installation we did in the park. At this time the park was open for the season and all work needed to be performed before or after operating hours. Generators and light towers were required for the night-time installations. The coaster was constructed over a section of the parking lot where the rain water used to run off. The soil that remained after construction of the coaster was unstable and machines could not be used to bring in the soil needed for seeding. Renting a soil slinger and operator to shoot the soil between the pylons of the coaster solved the problem. Many contractors are starting to rent these Soil King Trucks. They save time, labor, and machine costs. The Soil King we rented will throw material 35 to 60 feet and can spread material from a light dusting, to a 20-yard stockpile. The machine can throw stone from the size #3 gravel to fines, as well as top soil. Once on the ground the soil could easily be raked smooth. We seeded the perimeter of the coaster with a deluxe seed mix, and the center was seeded with a white flowering clover to eliminate the need for maintenance under the coaster.

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June 17, 2019, 8:29 am PDT

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