(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — Paul Nelson, the owner of Waldameer and Water World, has died. He was 89.
During his time at the park, many of the park’s most famous attractions were established, including the iconic Wacky Shack and of course the Ravine Flyer.
Nelson’s son-in-law Steve Gorman confirmed Nelson’s death in an email on Monday, May 22. In a written statement, Gorman said the park will continue to be a family institution.
“Waldameer will continue to be family-owned and operated. Son-in-law Steve Gorman remains president/general manager and will continue to help operate Waldameer and Water World along with Paul’s wife Lane Nelson, daughter Nancy Gorman and grandson Brian Gorman, and our many wonderful employees,” Gorman wrote. “We share the compassion that Paul had to providing a family-oriented park that creates lasting memories for our community and our guests.”
The park first opened in 1896, according to the Waldameer website. Its first roller coaster opened in 1907. Paul Nelson took over operations of the park in 1965 and assumed full ownership in 1978, the website says. Water World opened in 1986.
Waldameer’s Facebook post on his passing began, “It all started as a dishwasher at age 11, and he was hooked for life…” Nelson was born Oct. 7, 1933, and died on May 21, 2022.
Senator Dan Laughlin, Millcreek Township, Erie Mayor Joe Schember and Rep. Mike Kelly all issued statements Monday on Nelson’s passing.
Waldameer just opened for its 127th season last weekend, and is in the midst of building a new waterslide, The Rocket Blast, which is expected to be finished for the 2023 season.
“It has been an honor to work and learn alongside a true amusement park legend. Paul will be missed by many in our industry,” Gorman continued.