Workers start the cleanup process at Santa's Workshop in Wilmington Sept. 1.
Matt Stanley, the general manager of Santa’s Workshop, stood at the edge of a 20-foot wide by six-foot deep chasm that floodwater had carved through his facility. A muddy Tampa Bay Buccaneers hat was pulled low over his eyes, blocking out the sun. He looked tired.
The local family amusement park he operates suffered more than $150,000 worth of damage from Tropical Storm Irene, which hit the region Aug. 28. It's not covered by insurance, Stanley said. The most recent damage is on top of the $20,000 to $30,000 the park suffered earlier this year due to spring flooding, Stanley said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide support only to individual homeowners, and so his business is not eligible, according to the general manager.
“But there are some small business, low interest loans that obviously we're going to have to take out to cover a lot of this cost,” Stanley said.
The trouble began Aug. 28 when Irene’s heavy rain caused the brook which runs through the facility to spill over its banks.
“All the work that we did this spring — gone,” Stanley said. “We're back filling stuff back in.”
The general manager added the lower stage of the Yuletide Theater was washed out. This was rebuilt and a retaining wall was installed nearby. None of the animals in the park were injured.
After losing a week’s worth of operation, the general manager hopes the park will reopen at 10 a.m. on Sept. 3. The Candy Cane Express, a gas engine train, will not be operating due to a washed-out bridge which will not be repaired in time. Additionally, St. Nicholas' Chapel will be closed. Alternatives routes will be available to reach the blacksmith's shop.
“Santa's Workshop has been here for over 60 years,” Stanley said. “So as you can imagine there's a lot of infrastructure that needs to be fixed. This is just one of those things that needs to be fixed.”
The general manager wanted to put the damage the park suffered in perspective.
“We know we’re not as hard hit as some of the people around the area,” Stanley said, adding his sympathy went out to the residents of Keene, Jay, Upper Jay and Au Sable Forks. “We actually didn't lose any buildings. We just lost land. We can replace land. It's hard to replace personal possessions. So our heart goes out to them. And we hope they're back on their feet before long.”
Stanley said he’s confident the business will go forward.
“The frozen North Pole is of course still frozen,” Stanley said. “Santa's magic is still here. We're looking forward to a good weekend. Put some smiles back on people's faces.”