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Mourning Idora's coasters



Published: Tue, July 31, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Some roller coaster enthusiasts hope the Jack Rabbit and Wildcat can be replicated someday.

By ROGER G. SMITH

CITY HALL REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- The long-expected demolition of Idora Park's remaining roller coasters has come, but the event still hits enthusiasts hard.

"I think it is a shame that they can tear down history like that," said Duana Sears, 21, of Newton Falls. "It's kind of sad. I couldn't believe they could just get rid of it like that."

The Youngstown State University student, who rides roller coasters whenever she can, never took a trip on the Jack Rabbit or Wildcat. A drive past the old park one day a few years ago, however, inspired her to research the coasters' history for a school project.

Richard Scarsella, founder of the Idora Park Institute, said Monday he has had at least 50 phone calls since demolition started late last week. Callers are asking if news of the coasters' demise is true.

The work: Indeed, the property owner, Mount Calvary Pentecostal Church, took out a demolition permit and started work Thursday.

The church has said for years that it planned to clear the site and develop the City of God spiritual center, so losing the coasters wasn't a surprise.

Work accelerated on the property since the March fire that destroyed the old ballroom near the coasters.

Rick Davis, 45, of Vienna, was surprised how easily the once-strong coasters came down.

"I remember them being back-breakers, not that it ever stopped me from riding," he said.

On the Net: Those who have posted messages the past three months on an Internet message board focusing on Idora Park, too, have noted losing the thrill rides. The message board can be found on the Web at http://www.voy.com/15716/.

"A sad loss to the roller coaster world. History has been destroyed," said Evan Ekstrand, 15, of Geauga County, who operates the Web site Woodencoaster.com.

He asked message board readers in April to sign a petition pleading to save the Jack Rabbit, getting 160 or so signatures.

He was researching coasters on the Internet when he came across the Wildcat and Jack Rabbit. He had hoped the petition would influence somebody to preserve the coasters.

Nostalgia: "Those were the days! It's like part of me died inside when my grandparents called and told me about the end," another writer said.

He lives in Maryland but spent summers with grandparents in Youngstown while growing up, going to Idora once a week.

"I find it hard to believe that there is such a hard time trying to find interest in saving the last thing worth saving, the memories of so many people of the Jack Rabbit," he said.

"I do believe that the Wildcat was one of the best-built wooden coasters ever made for a lot of reasons, and the Jack Rabbit was not far behind, either," says a message posted in June.

Replicas? The writer hopes that construction plans still exist and that maybe one day somebody will rebuild the coasters.

So does Mike Elliott, 22, of Cortland. Elliott's favorite roller coasters are made of wood, rather than steel, so he would be one of the first in line if the Jack Rabbit was ever replicated.

"I'd love to, if they ever rebuilt it," he said.

Elliott and Sears, his girlfriend, went to Idora on Monday to look over what's left.

Letting it go: Many lament the loss of the Jack Rabbit and Wildcat -- and by extension, the park -- while other fans say, "move on."

One writer said the only thing salvageable on the Jack Rabbit was the flywheel and a few other lift hill parts, anyway.

"The time to save the park was before the auction in 1984," the writer said. "Wishing it was still there cannot restore what was lost to apathy. The simple fact is, few people cared about the park until it was too late. Idora died; cherish the memories, but face reality: It is not coming back."

At least three people posted messages in agreement.

To others, the coasters -- like the park -- already were gone.

"The recent ballroom fire in many ways gives closure to a park that died many years ago," one message says. "Idora is dead. Long live Idora!"

rgsmith@vindy.com




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