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WaterPark rides its first wave

POSTED: May 30, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Chance Alm, 9, of Buford rides a wave in the wave pool Sunday at the newly named Chattahoochee Rapids Beach and WaterPark.

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Lake Lanier Islands flung open its gates this weekend to welcome about 800 visitors to its water park that will now close one day each week this summer to conserve water.

For the first time, the water park will be closed each Monday this season in an effort to conserve more water, park manager Jonathan Ross said.

The park also began its nearly four-month season this year as the Chattahoochee Rapids Beach and WaterPark rather than Lake Lanier Islands Beach and WaterPark.

Ross said the new name came at the suggestion of Lake Lanier Islands owner Virgil Williams.

He also said the park’s 10 water slides and multiple pool areas, including the state’s largest wave pool that holds 750,000 gallons of water, recycles water back into the swimming pools.

"Water in the wave pool ... goes through a filtration system and is then recycled," Ross said. "For the most part, it’s 99 percent self-sufficient, so we’re not wasting water on this."

Ross said the park will be open six days a week beginning Thursday until Aug. 10. The water park will close for the fall after Labor Day.

Chattahoochee Rapids Beach and WaterPark will feature some new bells and whistles this summer, with a new tiki bar on the beach and a new amusement park with a Ferris wheel and other rides.

Despite low water levels at Lake Lanier, Ross said he’s optimistic about park attendance for the summer. He said the water park typically sees about 100,000 visitors each year.

Ross said the 700 visitors who came on Saturday for opening day, along with the less than 100 park-goers on Sunday, is a relatively low turnout for opening weekend, but is no real indication of what lies ahead.

"It’s early. It’s still May," Ross said. "Once we start cracking into June, we’ll be busier. June and July are by far our busiest months."

He said the low lake levels might have deterred folks from making the trek to the park, but once they hear it’s still fully operational for the summer season, he hopes they will flock to the park for fun in the sun.

"I think people think we aren’t open because of the lake levels and think that might somehow affect us," Ross said. "But we’re still up and running."

Ross said whether the park’s swimming area in the lake will open for the summer is yet to be determined due to a craggy 14-foot drop at that part of the beach.

He said the beaches are a whole lot larger this year, but the majority of the half-mile of white sandy beach at the park is still picture perfect.

Kathy Schultz attended the park Sunday afternoon with her two kids and their three friends. She said she’s brought her family to the water park for 11 years now, and this summer will be no different.

She said the smaller crowd at the water park Sunday translated to smaller lines for her teen-aged children.

"We rode that water slide like six times in a row," she said. "The kids said, ‘I know nobody’s here or anything but this is kind of nice.’"

Schultz said she’s grown to enjoy the park more over the years as the kids get older, allowing her to supervise them less and read more. She said gas prices probably won’t leave her stranded in Dawsonville on hot summer days — Schultz said the water park provides an invaluable service by wearing her kids out after a few hours.

"People come here year after year, and they know we’re open," Ross said. "I’m not too worried at this point. I think we’ll have a wonderful summer."


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