LAKE GEORGE — Magic Forest, the iconic amusement park on Route 9, is apparently getting a new owner who plans significant changes at the park.
Jack Gillette has reached an agreement to sell the children’s park to Ruben Ellsworth, owner of Ellsworth & Son Excavating of Fort Ann, local officials said. Some of the park’s fixtures, including many of the animal statues that were placed around the park, have been put up for sale as the new owners plan a different theme for the park, which has catered to young children for more than 50 years.
Gillette was at the workshop behind the park on Monday morning, loading up some of the statues to be transported off-site.
Asked if the park had been sold, he replied “almost” and referred comment to Ellsworth. Ellsworth did not return phone calls on Monday, but a public relations representative who returned calls on his behalf said Ellsworth’s company, Magic Forest Properties LLC, was “reviewing options for the property” that included keeping it as a theme park. She would not elaborate.
Officials said a formal announcement by the new owners was planned in early December.
Lake George Supervisor Dennis Dickinson said Ellsworth has been communicating with town officials about plans for the park, which included a proposal for some unspecified fixtures 40 feet tall or more. No town action or applications had been filed as of Monday.
“We’re excited,” he said. “They are going to keep it as a park. It’s a good spot with a nice parking lot, and Ruben has a lot of ideas.”
Dickinson said the sale has been in negotiations for years, but couldn’t be finalized because of a lawsuit between Gillette and Warren County over boundary issues that was pending for years. That was settled earlier this year.
Warren County property records show the park, located on four parcels amounting to about 17 acres, was still owned by Gillette as of Monday. Lexi Delurey, the county’s director of real property and tax services, said Monday that no sale or deed transaction has been reported.
Lake George Mayor Robert Blais said Ellsworth’s plans will be good for the attraction.
“Ruben will do a great job,” Blais said. “He wants to preserve the park and update it.”
Magic Forest was founded in 1963 by Gillette’s father, Arthur Gillette. The park has 25 rides, a train and animals and has featured a variety of shows.
Sale of the statues is being handled through the “American Giants” website, a site dedicated to collectors and fans of fiberglass statues. A listing of the items for sale can be found at usagiants.com/magic-forest-sale/. Many have already been listed as sold for thousands of dollars.
According to the auction website, the giant Uncle Sam figure is not for sale, but scores of other figures are.
“Magic Forest is well known in the roadside attraction world and to travelers,” the website reads. “They probably have one of the largest collections of original fiberglass figures from the 1960s.”