Enchanted Forest delays planned reopening after pushback over mask rules

The witch’s head at Enchanted Forest on Tuesday, October 27. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Citing possible conflict over masking requirements, Enchanted Forest will not reopen this weekend as earlier planned.

The much-loved amusement park located south of Salem had posted on Facebook earlier this week that it would open for the season on Saturday, May 22.  The post (which has since been deleted) said guests would be required to either show proof of vaccination or wear a mask while in the park.

But on Tuesday Susan Vaslev, a member of the Tofte family who’s run the park for nearly 50 years, said in a statement that the park would not be opening because of mask requirements that have been in flux since last week.

“We had hoped to do so this weekend with safety protocols consistent with the most up-to-date guidance from the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the Governor, and the state epidemiologist,” the statement, which was also posted to Facebook, said. “Unfortunately, recent comments and threats have made clear that our community is not in agreement as to how we will interact in public places with regard to mask requirements for those who are vaccinated versus those who are not vaccinated.”

Last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued updated recommendations that fully vaccinated people could go without masks in many settings. The recommendations do call for vaccinated people to wear masks while traveling or other crowded settings, and to follow business and workplace requirements. 

In response, Gov. Kate Brown announced she would be updating state guidelines to reflect the CDC recommendations. Masks and vaccines have become culture war flashpoints, and businesses have expressed concern about being put in a difficult position of having to enforce the new rules.

The Oregon Health Authority has indicated that it’s working on the guidelines. Brown has acknowledged on social media that the CDC’s move “left many unanswered questions for states to sort out.”

The statement from Enchanted Forest didn’t offer details on the threats it’s received. But it said it wants to open responsibly and is awaiting specific guidance from the state.

“However, until we are confident we can do so safely, we will not be able to reopen,” said the statement. “Our commitment to being a place where families can spend time together free of unnecessary hate and conflict simply outweighs our strong desire to reopen our business.”

Guests who already bought tickets for the weekend will receive a refund, the park said.

The news that Enchanted Forest would delay its opening was met mostly with dismay on its Facebook page that the storied amusement park would draw conflict.

Last year, the park’s reopening was unsure after it saw attendance plummet because of the pandemic. But the park, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary in August, indicated in December it would reopen after it began selling memorabilia and raising enough money on its GoFundMe page. Currently, Enchanted Forest has raised over $450,000 through the online fundraising platform.

Contact reporter Jake Thomas at 503-575-1251 or [email protected] or @jakethomas2009.

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