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Theme parks are back in action

Jones Beach to see first full season of WildPlay

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One of the most daunting attractions at WildPlay Element Parks Jones Beach, high above the boardwalk at the state park, is a zip line called the What’s To Fear Jump, a plunge from a 40-foot perch.

The hardest part is stepping off, said Adam Karp, the manager of the adventure park, which is filled with zip lines and aerial obstacle courses.

In its third year of operation, WildPlay is still a relatively new attraction at Jones Beach. The park celebrated its reopening day of what will be its first full season on April 16. Its first season, in 2019, was short because it opened in midsummer, and last season was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“A lot of people are coming out,” Karp said last Sunday morning amid the sounds of the ocean and pulleys sliding across zip line cables. “It’s been nice to have a lot of great experiences with people who have just been cooped up and are trying to find an outlet.”

And it’s a safe outlet, Karp added, with mask-wearing and social distancing required. You leave your comfort zone only to try one of the zip lines or obstacle courses.

“People may look at something and say, ‘That’s impossible. I could never do that,’” Karp said. “And then when you . . . get them on the other side, they’ve actually done it. It’s such a change in attitude. It’s definitely something that could carry over into actual life.”

WildPlay, along with Adventureland, in East Farmingdale, are among the attractions that have begun to reopen with warmer weather and loosened pandemic regulations.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in February that indoor family entertainment centers could open on March 26, and outdoor amusement parks could open on April 9.

“Good news for Nassau’s families — I’m thrilled that indoor family entertainment centers as well as outdoor amusement parks will finally be able to safely reopen and get back in business,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said. “The reopening of these venues and programs is yet another step towards New York’s safe return to normal. I’m confident these businesses will take all necessary precautions to keep kids and employees safe.”

Adventureland opened on April 10 for the first time in a year. Despite being limited to 33 percent capacity, the park was bustling with families a week after it opened.

“It was 561 days since we had people in the park until we opened last weekend,” said Adventureland co-owner Steven Gencile. “It was wonderful. People were very excited, and they just wanted to get back to some normalcy for their children and themselves, really.”

It was a typical spring afternoon last Friday at Adventureland, with parents carrying large stuffed animals that their children had won and people shouting in delight and trepidation on more than 30 rides.

Unlike WildPlay, Adventureland was unable to open last year in any capacity. The park has been a major part of Gencile’s life since his family got involved in 1977 and bought it with Peter Amoruso in 1987.

“You miss seeing the kids with their moms and dads, and you know what? You miss the kids screaming, you miss the kids laughing and you miss the kids crying,” he said. “And you miss the parents being happy, and you miss the parents getting frustrated with their children, because you know what? It’s all about caring for each other.”

The park hosted drive-in movies and concerts throughout the pandemic, efforts that Gencile said received much support, even while the park was closed.

“All I can say to Long Island is thank you for supporting us through the pandemic and supporting us through the opening of the park,” he said as he watched and smiled at a train ride carrying socially distanced and masked families passing by. “I truly believe that the medicine we all need is the medicine of each other. We were the medicine for Long Island and Long Island was the medicine for us.”