One of Maine’s oldest and best-known water parks has closed for the season under pressure from state and local authorities concerned about large gatherings posing a public health threat.

Saco police officers went Friday to Aquaboggan Water Park on Route 1, where officers delivered a cease-and-desist order. Police said they were concerned that large gatherings of people inside the park posed a significant risk of transmitting the COVID-19 virus.

The code enforcement director for the city of Saco inspected Aquaboggan on Aug. 3 and estimated that more than 1,200 guests were inside the water park, according to the Police Department’s order. Saco Police Chief Jack Clements said he was told that Aquaboggan routinely has more than 100 guests in the park – a violation of the state COVID-19 regulations governing public gatherings.

“The COVID-19 virus is deadly, and it can be readily spread through large gatherings,” Clements wrote in the cease-and-desist letter, dated Aug. 28.  The letter was addressed to Ethan Mongue, Aquaboggan’s operations manager. “Having 1,200 persons gather at a waterpark poses a significant public health danger, and I trust that you do not want to see Aquaboggan be the source of an outbreak.”

The state of Maine was also involved in the decision to order the water park closed, but a spokeswoman made it clear Sunday evening that the decision was not made in haste.

“The Department of Economic and Community Development, Department of Health and Human Services health inspectors, and Saco city officials engaged in several discussions with Aquaboggan in an attempt to assist them in complying with the State’s public health protocols – the same protocols that are required of other outdoor amusement venues,” Kate Foye, a spokeswoman for DECD, said in an email. “Ultimately, after multiple warnings, Aquaboggan failed to comply and was issued a cease and desist by local law enforcement.”

Gov. Janet Mills on Aug. 1 issued an executive order that increased the limit on outdoor gatherings to five people per 1,000 square feet or 100 persons, whichever is less.

“Aquaboggan is plainly in violation of the Executive Order, and if this violation continues, Aquaboggan could face criminal prosecution, and if convicted, could be subject to criminal penalties,” the cease-and-desist order states.

Aquaboggan confirmed in a Facebook post Saturday that it would be closing immediately, but Mongue made it clear that the park disagrees with the cease-and-desist order. Aquaboggan opened for the summer season on July 1.

“It is with great disappointment that Aquaboggan Water Park will be closing for the season effective immediately,” Aquaboggan said in its statement. “Due to strict and inconsistent state regulations it is no longer possible for us to remain open while remaining in compliance with the changes in the guidelines.”

“While we firmly disagree that some of these regulations should apply to Aquaboggan, staff and guest safety has always been the number one priority and we will always place public health above profit. We plan to confront the inconsistency of the guidelines by working to create policy change rather than operate against them, but unfortunately this takes time,” Aquaboggan said.

“To all our guests: thank you for a wonderful season this year. We are so grateful for the opportunity to safely provide you and your family summer entertainment in a turbulent part of not only the state’s, but the world’s history.”

Aquaboggan said that anyone in possession of an unused pass that was purchased in 2020 will be able to use it in 2021. Season pass holders will be given discounts for renewals next year.

Aquaboggan bills itself as being Maine’s original water park, having opened more than 40 years ago. The park features eight high-speed water slides, a 750,000-gallon wave tank and miniature golf. Its competitor to the south, the amusement park and water park known as Funtown Splashtown USA, announced in April that it would not open this summer due to the global pandemic.

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