New Book Salutes Late Founder of NJ’s Notorious Action Park

Coauthor Andy Mulvihill, son of park founder Gene Mulvihill, says he wanted to convey that his father was a "true pioneer."

action park
Action Park founder Gene Mulvihill Courtesy of Michael J. LeBrecht II

If you’ve lived in New Jersey long enough—or even if you haven’t—you’ve likely heard of Action Park. Maybe you visited the infamous amusement park and have your own stories about plunging down the notorious Cannonball Loop or being swamped in the wave pool.

Founded by investor/developer Gene Mulvihill, Action Park opened in 1978 in the Sussex County town of Vernon. The park consisted mostly of water-based rides and was known for its hair-raising and sometimes-hazardous attractions, many of which Mulvihill designed himself. Over the years, Action Park earned such derisive nicknames as Class-Action Park and Traction Park. There were five on-site deaths and countless personal-injury lawsuits—all of which led to the park’s demise in 1996. Mountain Creek Resort was eventually developed at the site. Mulvihill later led an investment group that purchased Mountain Creek and, for a time, made it part of his larger Crystal Springs Resort.

But there’s another side to the Action Park story, one that Gene’s son, Andy Mulvihill—CEO of Crystal Springs Resort Real Estate—eagerly shares in his new book, Action Park: Fast Times, Wild Rides, and the Untold Story of America’s Most Dangerous Amusement Park, out June 30 from Penguin Books.

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In its time, Action Park garnered its share of negative press coverage. “I thought it would be nice to be on the other side of the pen, to really convey what a true pioneer my dad was,” says Mulvihill. He and coauthor Jake Rossen conducted more than 100 interviews for their chronicle of the park’s rise and ultimate wipeout.

While the book offers an insider’s look at Action Park, it’s also a son’s warm tribute to his dad, who died in 2012. “He was doing something that had never been done before: taking the freedom aspect of skiing and applying it to an amusement park,” says Mulvihill. “He didn’t stand for mediocrity.”

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