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Venerable Oaks Park Preserved

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as non-profit organization

Oaks Amusement Park, a 44-acre piece of nostalgia on the Willamette River valued at $5 million, is being turned over to a non-profit corporation for management.

To the public, however, the park at the foot of the Sellwood Bridge will remain essentially the same as it has been since it opened 1905.

The owner of the park, Robert Bollinger, 73, made the announcement Thursday at a news conference inside the roller skating rink.

Bollinger, who has no heirs, said he wanted the amusement park to continue as a "source of fun for everybody." he said he did not want to see his lifelong occupation be turned into "condominiums or a shopper center."

The park is the oldest amusement park operated continuously in the nation, said Dale Pritchard, who will continue as park manager. It has 23 amusement rides, a roller-skating rink and several acres of lawn for picnicking.

"I grew up here and watched what seemed like most of the city of Portland enjoy it at one time or another," Bollinger said. "I want to preserve that."

Bollinger's father, Edward, worked there as an electrician when the park opened in 1905 and purchased everything but the land in 1925. He bought the land in 1940.

Now the park will be managed by the Oaks Park Association, a non-profit corporation with Les Buell, president of Hayden Corp., as chairman.

Buell, known for residential developments at Hayden Island, reaffirmed Bollinger's promise that the park would not become a mass of condominiums. "There is no potential possibility of putting up condos," he said.

However, Buell did not exclude the possibility of renting park land to an enterprise such as a restaurant.

Bollinger said that he knew of only one other amusement park in the United States run by a private non-profit corporation - the one in Hershey, PA., which is a foundation for the employees of Hershey Foods, the chocolate company.

Administration of the park, to which admission is free, won't change soon, Buell said. he said that basic sprucing up and repairs would done first so the park would be able to open in about 60 days. In the winter, only the skating rink is open.

The transfer of Bollinger's stock in United Amusement Co., the parent company of Oaks Amusement Park, to the Oaks Park Association, was effective the first of the year.

Bollinger will continue as vice president of Funtastic Amusement Rides, a major Northwest supplier of carnival amusement rides.

Other new board members are developer William Naito; Hilbert Johnson, retired Portland General Electric Co. vice president; Hall Templeton, former Boise Cascade Corp. director and a Lewis and Clark College board member; William V. Owens, Portland parks superintendent; Alfred Taylor, metal fabrication shop owner and former Jantzen Beach amusement park manager; and James K. Neill, Sr., former president and owner of National Mortgage Co.

By J. Winike
J. Winike is a Portland writer.
Photo supplied by the author
Published in Northwest Magazine
Sunday, November 11, 1973

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Updated 11/03/2013