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Christmas-themed park to reopen in California after 18 years

Associated Press Associated Press 24/11/2016

LAKE ARROWHEAD, Calif. — A once-beloved Christmas-themed amusement park that for decades drew Santa Claus fans to the alpine peaks of Southern California will reopen next month after an 18-year closure.

SkyPark at Santa's Village is scheduled to open on Dec. 2 in the hamlet of Skyforest near Lake Arrowhead, in the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles.

It's the restart of a tourist attraction that offered colorful storybook-style cottages, candy canes and holiday-themed rides year-round from 1955 to 1998.

The new 153-acre park will feature a tunnel ride, restaurants, pub and an ice skating rink. It will operate under a temporary permit until developers can win environmental approval from San Bernardino County to add campgrounds, a fly fishing pond, mountain biking trails and a zipline. Approval could come next year.

The village is seen as an economic boost to an area that has struggled since the 2008 recession.

For now, only the original 18 Santa's Village buildings will be open. The park will be open seven days a week, except for Christmas Day. Adult tickets will be available online for $59.

"My hope is that we are allowed to open the village as everybody remembers it," project manager Bill Johnson told the San Bernardino Sun newspaper last month.

Meanwhile, Santa is ready to report for duty.

"I can't wait to welcome kids into Santa's house for the first time in 18 years," said Bill Priest of Lake Arrowhead, who plays Santa at local functions.

Priest told the Sun that he will be a Santa at the village and train other Santas.

"I'm just waiting for a phone call," he said.

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