Magnet For Mischief: KSL Investigates Alarming Rise In Police Calls To Abandoned Waterpark
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Raging Waters. Seven Peaks Salt Lake. However you remember it, it was once a beacon of summer fun for thousands of Utahns.
But as the KSL Investigators found, this now abandoned property has become a magnet for mischief for teens seeking social media fame.
The old water park at 1200 W. 1700 South has seen some vandalism the past couple years, even a couple of fires. But what the vacant property has seen in the past 30 days is very different.
So, when your teen says they’re going to the waterpark this summer, you may want to ask a few follow up questions.
Abandoned and Dangerous
There is something beautifully eerie about the old and abandoned waterpark.
The colors have faded.
The slides are dry.
And if the razor sharp blades on the rundown fence don’t get the point across, let us spell it out here: You are not invited and you are not welcome.
“I was shocked when I heard what happened. It’s dangerous,” said Megan.
She is the mother of a 15-year-old girl who got caught up in the social media trend #sevenpeaks.
The series of short video posts on TikTok show teens breaking into the dilapidated park.
They’re even hanging by their fingertips, 10-plus feet over a waterless pool.
“It’s just fun, it’s something they see on social media,” said Megan, “I don’t think they realize the consequences of what could happen.”
The obvious consequences are broken bones, cuts, bruises and maybe a concussion.
But the consequence for her daughter, back on May 12, easily could have cost the 15-year-old her life.
“A shot was fired,” said Megan. “You’ve got guns pointed at you. You have people telling you they’re going to kill you, hurt you, and your friends.”
If it seems like mom is exaggerating a bit, she is not.
According to police, 14 teens were trespassing and messing around the park, when a couple of juveniles showed up, pulled a gun, and demanded their stuff.
“They had a handgun pointed at them and their stuff stolen. So, bad things are going to happen if you’re there trespassing,” said Salt Lake City Police Detective Greg Wilking.
In the end, the teens were OK.
The suspects were caught.
But police are frustrated.
“Your kids shouldn’t have been here in the first place,” said Wilking. “If they hadn’t been here, none of that would have happened.”
Through a public records request, the KSL Investigators got an idea of how often police are called out to this abandoned park.
Over the past year, they averaged six calls a month.
But with the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down schools, kids appear to have more free time.
Once we hit the month of May, police saw nearly eight times the average number of calls, responding on reports of vandalism, assault, robbery, theft and an overwhelming number of people trespassing.
The KSL Investigators caught up with a CBI security guard patrolling the grounds, who showed us the cut-up fence.
“They just come in with their bolt cutters, their wire cutters,” he said.
The piece of vandalized wire he pointed out is just one of 27 holes in the chain link protecting the park.
For months, roaming the property was a part-time job for CBI security, but with the influx in trespassing, they’ve now been hired by the city full time.
And taxpayers are footing the bill.
“Unfortunately, we’ve had to increase security because of the illegal entry into the property,” said Lisa Shaffer, Chief Administrative Officer for Salt Lake City.
Shaffer says after Seven Peaks shut down a couple of years ago, they negotiated a deal with the company “Blue Island Group” to take over and operate the park.
Shaffer says the company walked away from their obligations in the contract.
The KSL Investigators reached out to Blue Island Group for answers, but they did not respond.
Shaffer believes Blue Island Group may have become overwhelmed.
“The responsibility and the amount of upkeep and repairs that they were about to take on, was a little more than they anticipated, I think,” she said.
Which means for now, the city of Salt Lake is responsibility for this old, rundown, 17-acre magnet for mischief.
Parents like Megan believe that means there should be more security.
“I just want the city to take more action on this park,” she said.
But police believe all the trespassing, the skating, the sliding, the tagging and the hiding does not fall squarely on their shoulders.
“If you come across (the knowledge) that your kid is doing that,” said Wilking, “you need to have a conversation with them.”
A conversation, which may involve a few hundred uncomfortable questions.
When asked by KSL Producer Cindy St.Clair if she knew her daughter was going there, Megan responded, “Umm, I don’t want to answer that one.”
Future of the park
Security guards will now be at the park 24 hours a day, including an armed guard at night.
Salt Lake City didn’t have the exact cost of that extra security, but the bill will likely continue to grow until the city decides what to do with the property.
Shaffer said they are considering legal action against Blue Island Group, for not following through on their contract.
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