SALEM — Things are tough all over — even in the Enchanted Forest.
The storybook theme park that unrolls in and around woodlands just south of Salem has been a world apart for nearly 50 years. Step onto the grounds and you step back in time, an innocent place inspired by nursery rhymes and iconic Americana artist Norman Rockwell.
But the coronavirus pandemic has upended this unique, only-in-Oregon playground.
The Tofte family that owns and runs Enchanted Forest has launched a GoFundMe page in hopes of raising $500,000 so the park can survive the deadly virus that has closed businesses across the country.
“Prior to COVID we were a thriving business and had no debt,” the family says on the page. “Then COVID hit and now at the end of our season, we are in debt and that debt will continue to rise quickly until COVID has passed and business returns to normal.”
Roger Tofte bought the land and started building Enchanted Forest in the mid-1960s.
“When we started, I planned to build just a few things in the woods, and I figured it would take about two years,” Tofte told The Oregonian a few months after the park opened in the fall of 1971.
He’s never considered retiring, Roger insisted in 2011.
“I’m happier when I’m out here,” he said.
Enchanted Forest didn’t open as usual in the spring of 2020 as the pandemic’s first wave swept over Oregon. In late June, the state gave the go-ahead to allow visitors with a variety of restrictions, including keeping the park to about 10% of capacity, and Enchanted Forest immediately sold out its first run of tickets.
But the restrictions meant the park couldn’t get into the black, the family says. Enchanted Forest is now closed again with a planned reopening in Spring 2021.
Along with the GoFundMe page, the family is raising cash by selling Roger’s memorabilia and artwork — such as his original drawing of an English Village for Enchanted Forest — on eBid.
“Our goal right now,” the family says, “is to save the business and survive through COVID so we are here for future generations to enjoy.”