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Friday, October 2, 2015

The Rise and Fall and Rise (Maybe) of Santa's Village

Above, Santa's Village. Image: Google Maps.

Before 1998, the year that it closed down, Santa's Village near Lake Arrowhead in the San Bernardino Mountains was a Southern California fixture.

Santa's Village originally opened about a couple of months before Disneyland in 1955. It was the first of three franchised amusement parks. It was one of California's biggest tourist attractions. Where else can family head up to the mountains to an amusement park with rides, a monorail and, of course, Santa Claus?

Unfortunately, reduced attendance and shortfalls in revenue forced the park to close in 1998. Since then, it was used as a storage facility and many of its fixtures (such as giant mushrooms) were auctioned off.

I had never been to Santa's Village. The closest I came to it was a drive-by while en route to a Boy Scout camp at Lake Arrowhead in 1966.

The property was sold in 2014 and the new developer plans to re-open Santa's Village as Skypark at Santa's Village in late 2016 (the original plan was to re-open it this past August 1). However, we are in a not-too-friendly-to-business state and the project is mired in bureaucratic red tape (such as Environmental Impact Reports).

Remarkably, despite being closed for 17 years, Santa Village's buildings are in pretty good shape. Some have been repaired, repainted and new roofing installed.

Once opened (we hope), Skypark at Santa's Village will boast Zip lines, bike and hiking trails, campground, monorail, fly-fishing, playgrounds, restaurants, retail and other attractions. RVers with young children will like taking their RVs to the planned campground for a weekend of fun in the mountain air.

But, I am not holding my breath as it seems that California state politicians and bureaucrats would rather kill off job-producing projects like this than letting them proceed. But, a recent hearing showed that there is a lot of public support for the project. Keep your fingers crossed!

To see the official website for Skypark at Santa's Village, go here.

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