Small Park Showcase: Oaks Park – Home of the new Adrenaline Peak Coaster
Oaks Park is a small amusement park located outside of downtown Portland, Oregon. This relatively unheard of park was put on coaster enthusiast’s radars with the announcement of the Adrenaline Peak Euro-fighter coaster that opened on March 24, 2018. We wanted to know more about one of the oldest parks in the United States and luckily Emily MacKay, Promotions & Events Manager, was able to fill us in. Thanks to Emily for the great tips.
C101: I have a feeling that, despite being around for so long, Oaks Park is not very well-known among our readers. Could you please give us a brief rundown – what is Oaks Park and a little bit of its history?
EM: Oaks Park is America’s oldest continually operating amusement park. Opened May 30, 1905 (just before the opening of the Lewis & Clark Exposition), The Oaks was built by the Oregon Water Power Commision as a way of enticing residents of Oregon City to take their new rail line into Portland. We’ve survived war year, depression, recession, and three floods never having missed a season in our 113 year history. Many structures on our property are the original buildings from 1905 (food stands, game houses), and we’ve recently refurbished the Blue Streak station into its original form (for many years it was hidden by a facade and housed a dark ride) where history displays can be found.
C101: What are some of the can’t miss attractions at Oaks Park?
Our new Adrenaline Peak Roller Coaster, of course, The Scream’n Eagle (a KMG Fireball), and our 1911 Hershall-Spillman Carousel are the top visitor favorites. People also LOVE the train that runs around the park picnic grounds.
C101: Any tips for first time visitors?
Bring a picnic! Outside food and beverages (no alcohol) are welcome and we have first come, first served picnic tables along our west edge, overlooking the beautiful Willamette River. Also, there is no parking or gate fee, except on the 4th of July and during Oktoberfest (3rd weekend of September) when a small gate fee is charged. Also, we have LOTS of deals, so always check our website before coming to see what special offers are happening.
C101: Awesome, those are some great tips. What’s the best kept secret at Oaks Park? What makes it unique from other amusement parks?
While not a secret, our beautiful Roller Rink sets us apart. Oaks Park Roller Skating Rink is one of the most popular skating venues in the country, and hosts a beautiful Wurlitzer pipe organ that is still played by a live organist Thursday evenings and at two sessions on Sundays. The roller rink operates year ’round, and is a staple of indoor fun in soggy Portland.
C101: Can you tell us about the new Adrenaline Peak coaster? We understand it’s seventy-two feet tall, has three inversions, and features a 97 degree drop. How did you arrive at the decision to add such a thrilling coaster?
Really it came down to giving the people what they want. Through various channels (most notably review sites and social media), we heard from our neighbors that they were ready for a more extreme ride… and we listened!
C101: We’re excited to see that our friends at KCL Engineering will be providing another unique lighting package! So, where did the name come from?
We held a naming contest from August 16 – December 1, 2018. We had nearly 5,000 suggestions! I paired the list down to the top 100 contenders, then our management team spent a month discussing and pairing that list down further until, in a unanimous vote, we chose Adrenaline Peak since it played on our northwest mountain culture and described the excitement of the vertical lift perfectly! The name was suggested by a 20 year old college student from Clackamas, Oregon, who won a $500 Oaks Park gift card (plus some serious bragging rights!).
C101: That’d be so cool to be able to say you named a roller coaster! Anything else you want to add or tell us about the park?
I mentioned above surviving three floods. Our park is right along the beachline of the Willamette River, which creates spectacular views, but also puts us squarely in a floodplain. In 1948 Portland suffered a major flood (referred to as the Vanport Flood) which caused extensive damage to the park, most notably to the Roller Skating Rink. The original floor was completely destroyed. Wanting to never have our beautiful rink ruined again, the owners and managers at the time devised a brilliant system of barrels affixed to the underside of the skating rink which would allow the skating floor to float if ever the river crested its banks again. The system saved the rink in the 1964 and 1996 floods, and sits ready to save this treasure the next time the river rises.
Thanks again to Emily for taking the time to answer our questions. For more information on Oaks Park, check out their website.
See previous entries in our Small Park Showcase series.
Will you be riding Adrenaline Peak or visiting Oaks Park this year? Let us know in the comments if you’ve ever been before.