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'Ugly rumor' has Wal-Mart buying Camden Park

Courtesy photo
Camden Park is West Virginia's only amusement park.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Camden Park's office manager said that, for about the past five months, she has received dozens of phone calls asking if Wal-Mart has purchased West Virginia's only amusement park.

Numerous posts on the park's Facebook page also pose the question.

"I grew up going to Camden Park, now my children get to go . . . just heard rumors that Wal-Mart bought u all out and were going to tear it down . . . pray that it's . . . a rumor," Stacey Klaiber wrote.

"Camden Park is a West Virginia landmark and should be made [a] historical one so that this cannot happen," writes William Blevins.

However, there's no need to worry, according to park officials.

"We have no idea where this rumor is coming from," said Rebecca Griffith, office manager. "Historically, the rumor has always been Kings Island purchased us but, this season, it's all about Wal-Mart."

Kings Island, in Mason, Ohio, is the Midwest's largest amusement and waterpark.

Camden Park, located on U.S. 60 West between Ceredo and Huntington, was developed in 1903 as a trolley car carousel and picnic area at the end of the Camden Interstate Railway. It became an amusement park in 1950 and celebrated its 109th season last month.

"We want people to know, no one has approached us to purchase Camden, and we have no intention of selling Camden Park," park manager Jack Boylin said in a prepared statement.

Eleanor Boylin Nesbit of Florida, who owns the land the amusement park sits on, said she hadn't heard about the rumor.

"There has been no mention of it, and I was there last week. They can't sell the land -- it's a different company who owns the rides," Nesbit said. "And I know they are getting ready to open a new ride."

"The Rattler," which moves back and forth and spins patrons "in endless circles," is set to open July 4, according to the park's website.

Wayne County administrator Brett Jones said that, as soon as he heard the rumor in December, he called Wal-Mart headquarters in Arkansas.

"I talked to [Wal-Mart's] property people, and they said they're not looking to expand into that area," Jones said. "They said they had no intention of buying the park."

Wal-Mart didn't return an email from the Gazette-Mail seeking comment.

There are six Walmart stores within about a 15- or 20-mile radius of Ceredo, Jones said. Two are located in Huntington, one is right across the Ohio River in Burlington, Ohio, there's a store in Wayne, an Ashland, Ky., location and another in Louisa, Ky.

Jones also noted that Camden Park has agreed to host the Wayne County Fair during the second week of August.

The records department of the Wayne County Clerk's Office said it doesn't have any deeds on file related to the sale of Camden Park.

Griffith, with the park, said she attributes the "ugly rumor" to "small-town talk."

"Everybody in this area knows someone who works here, and people's sources here aren't always reliable," she said. "If [Camden Park] closed, it would be devastating to the area. I think people are just fearful we could lose the park."

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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