Ghost Town deal with state should expedite May opening

By Sarah Kucharski • Staff Writer

The owner of Ghost Town in the Sky and the North Carolina Department of Labor have signed a unique agreement that aims to ensure that the historic Maggie Valley amusement park opens on time.


The agreement establishes a partnership between the Department of Labor and Ghost Town so there is an expedited inspection process for all equipment. The amusement park has less than 100 days until its planned opening in May.

“The days seemingly now get faster,” said owner Hank Woodburn.

The agreement was reached in recognition of Ghost Town’s potential economic impact for Maggie Valley and Haywood County as a whole. The amusement park has been closed since 2002, causing a tourism decline in the Maggie Valley area. The agreement does not exempt Ghost Town from any inspections; rather it makes inspectors available as needed.

“It is the first one of its type in the country,” said N.C. Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry at a ceremony Feb. 16 in Maggie Valley.

Inspectors also are being sent to the American Amusement Rides facility in Tennessee to evaluate Ghost Town equipment being repaired there. Such equipment and various parts and pieces are being shipped in from all over the country to bring the amusement park up to operating condition.

“My only fear is that they’re all going to show up on the same day,” Woodburn said.

Ghost Town’s new owners have invested in new safety devices including new brakes on the chairlift and a new suspension system on the inclined railway, both which provide visitor access from the parking lot to the amusement park.

In return for the Department of Labor’s services, Ghost Town has agreed to comply with all department regulations, participate in the North Carolina Rider Safety Program once the park is complete, and keep the department informed of and provide inspection access to all equipment on- and off-site.

The partnership is consistent with long-range department efforts to work with amusement park operators across the state. It allows for better use of department resources and active owner/operator participation in the compliance process. North Carolina’s Amusement Device Safety Act is the most strident in the nation, Berry said.

The agreement between the Department of Labor and Ghost Town will terminate 30 days after the amusement park opens to the public.

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