Once upon a time, there was a fanciful, fairy-tale themed amusement park nestled in the woods of Hope Valley. It opened in 1971 to eager patrons and their children, boasting shiny recreations of nursery rhyme characters like Humpty Dumpty, a petting zoo, and kid-friendly rides like a mini roller coaster, bumper cars, and merry go round. Back in the day, it must’ve been every child’s dream to see that bright blue billboard sign on the roadside, The Enchanted Forest of Rhode Island written large in yellow script.
Today, the park is anything but enchanting. After attendance dropped, it closed its doors in 2005 and has lay empty and neglected ever since. Thick brush, weeds, and groping tree roots have reclaimed the park for itself so that now only portions of its former splendor peek through the greenery: cracked asphalt remnants of a go-kart track, a chipped picket fence resembling broken teeth, a gutted red barn vandalized with spray paint, and that massive sign now faded and cast in ominous shadow.
“Periodically, I go there,” said the last owner-operator Harold Fera to the Providence Journal in 2013. “I’m still sad about it.” Fera is most widely known for owning Rockwell Amusements, the state’s beloved traveling amusement company that’s still going strong today. When he closed the park, he auctioned off most of the rides and placed the property up for sale.
While the park is deserted, it is not forgotten. For many Rhode Islanders, Enchanted Forest might have been their first amusement park experience; they might remember slipping in the slide down the Old Woman’s Shoe or screaming with delight on the kiddie coaster. It wasn’t the mainstream tourist trap touting pricey tickets and industrial, overcrowded rides; instead, it took the best of your childhood storybooks and tucked it into a little Rhode Island forest.
That forest, once the perfect setting for a fairytale, now adds to the desolate, ghostly air of the park, to be appreciated only by glances thrown out of traveling cars on Route 3. That blue billboard sign protruding from undergrowth is the last trace of the park’s former life, until it, too, is swallowed by the thicket.