Every so often, stories about abandoned Disney properties turns up on the news sites. In this case River Country and Discovery (formerly Treasure) Island.
Now, I've gone off Disney and I have no plans to ever go back to their amusement parks in the near future. The last time I was there, the Magic Kingdom was filled with mangy animals looking like escapees from zombie world. The only answer Disney customer service gave to me regarding that complaint was that mange wasn't a danger to humans. As far as I know, most likely nothing has been done to help the squirrels and birds there with this disfiguring parasitic infection. They could still be begging for food while showing off their bald spots covered in runny sores. All I can say is that when you visit Disney this year and you see sickly squirrels and birds....stay away! Unless you want a ripping case of SCABIES. Another story that has put me off is that Disney had fired almost all their technology people and replaced them with H1-B Visa slaves. This company makes truck loads of money, that they would fire Americans for just a few cents more to pay their executives is disgusting and outrageous.
Even so, with all that I will not jump on the bandwagon shaking my finger at the closed, abandoned parks. First of all, Disney owns the land lock, stock & barrel. They own so much of this land, they are their own municipality. They are within their legal rights to let these two sites rot for as long as they like.
Monetarily speaking, the costs to tear down these sites probably cost more than it would to rebuild or put new attractions on the sites. Both River Country and Discovery Island were built in the mid-70s. Both are most certainly built with materials that are banned as building components today. This, I would guess, is the reason why Disney leaves them alone rather than deal with hazardous waste/toxic clean up.
One of the big reasons River Country was closed was because it was built on a real lake with all the inherent beauty AND danger associated with natural bodies of water. Lakes carry a host of protozoa and bacteria that are natural to them however they are unnatural to us. River Country was built using the Bay Lake water. It was a natural water park with absolutely no chlorification processes. So when guests were swimming, they were swimming with whatever else shared the water. In 1980, one young guest became deathly ill due to an infection caused by an amoeba. Even still, Disney kept the park open until the early 90s.
I remember River Country and attended the park twice. It was lovely. Disney had set up a small white sand beach cove which connected the lake to the park. On the River Country beach, when you looked out onto the lake you could see hotel guest's paddle boats, row boats, jet skis, water skiiers and even the large ferries going to the parks. They had even built fresh water paddling pools for children around this beach area. I remember Disney monitoring the water quite religiously. There were days that they closed down the park because of a high bacteria count in the water. Clearly they did keep safety in mind, especially after guests became ill. But still the dangers of looming lawsuits were no doubt part of the reasons why Disney built Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. Those two parks are not connected to the lake water and are chlorinated. However neither of those two parks ever matched River Country in natural beauty.
River Country closed soon after Typhoon Lagoon opened. Disney gave up the fight against the natural microscopic inhabitants and apparently the larger ones such as Alligators. I wonder just how many times they needed to dredge the water for these teethy beasties before they opened River Country every day for business. *Shudder* Incidentally, all the beaches of the Hotels near the Magic Kingdom were closed. Yes, you can sit on them and walk on them but you can't swim in the lake. All of these original, prime properties have large pools where guests can swim.
The moaning and groaning that this abandoned site causes is more than likely due to the memories of past family vacations. I have them and I loved River Country. It does make me sad that the park is closed and now overgrown with local plant life. Yes, I would love to walk its paths again. But Disney is under no obligation to carry the flame for this park and keep it up as a museum site for my or anyone else's childhood memories.
The same could be said for Discovery Island. Which suffered wildlife problems. Such as the never ending mobs of Vultures that called the island home and many times attacked Disney guests. Alligators trying to set up shop on the shores were no doubt a hazard. Especially since the island's ghost wreck, The Hispaniola, was a big attraction on the island. This island remained opened until Animal Kingdom was built. Then it too was abandoned to the vultures that claimed it.
Now the only problem I can see with these abandoned sites is that Disney is so intent on keeping them secret. I feel they should release pictures of the sites themselves, explain why they were closed and why they weren't torn down. This would cut down the numbers of daredevils trying to sneak into these former attractions to take photos. It is nice to see the pictures but they certainly aren't worth the danger to life and limb. Nor are they worth being banned from the Disney property for a lifetime (although that is better than being arrested for trespassing).
It's best to remember River Country how it used to be and lives on in our memories.
Labels: commentary, culture, Disney World, personal