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Dadipark: The oldest amusement park in Belgium was closed down after a boy lost an arm

Anastasia Kolomiets

Dadipark is an abandoned amusement park which was opened in the 1950s by the priest Gaston Deweer in the village Dadizele, in the East Flanders province of Belgium. It was made for the children of the pilgrims who served at the Basilica of Our Lady of Dadizele. In the beginning, it was built as a playground, but a few years later the priest turned it into a modern amusement park which was affordable for every child from the village.

It is the oldest amusement park in the country, and it still holds the Signboard bridge which is considered to be the longest bridge in Europe. Dadipark hosted up to 1 million visitors during his peak, and the most popular attractions were the bumper car rides and the carousels. It also housed swings in different colors and variants, and many slides from large to small. The few attractions where children could not go alone were the train and the boats.

The park closed its doors in 2002 when a little boy lost his arm on the Jet Boat attraction. It had been mentioned before that the park was not secure enough for children because of other small incidents, but this was the worst of them all. After many complaints, the pilgrims and other visitors didn’t want to take their kids there, and because of this, in 2002 the park was closed for renovation.

The park was closed down in 2002 when a little boy lost his arm on the Jet Boat attraction. Author: Thomas Strosse, CC BY-SA 2.0

The park was closed down in 2002 when a little boy lost his arm on the Jet Boat attraction. Author: Thomas Strosse, CC BY-SA 2.0

After the announcement that it would take some time to make the place more secure, no one was interested in going back there and the park was closed down ever since. Several developers considered turning the abandoned park into a modern one, but because of the incident they didn’t believe that it would be very popular.

It is the oldest amusement park in Belgium. Author: Pel Laurens. CC BY 3.0

It is the oldest amusement park in Belgium. Author: Pel Laurens. CC BY 3.0

After closing, the place still was a tourist attraction for visitors who wanted to see the abandoned rides. Despite the signs stating that trespassing is prohibited, a lot of graffiti artists visited often and made various graffiti on the buildings and rides. Also, photographers who love abandoned places come to the site and photograph the old attractions.

The entrance of Dadipark. Author: Thomas Strosse. CC BY-SA 2.0

The entrance of Dadipark. Author: Thomas Strosse. CC BY-SA 2.0

Many urban explorers who have visited the park say that it is always filled with people drinking, running on the bridge and, walking around the rides with their children. Despite the fact that the park was closed, some of the attractions are still functional, as is the car park which people fill every day.

The bridge which is considered to be the longest in Europe. Author: Pel Laurens. CC BY 3.0

The bridge which is considered to be the longest in Europe. Author: Pel Laurens. CC BY 3.0

Through the years, the abandoned park is being reclaimed by nature. The attractions now stand amongst trees and plants, and there is a green swamp in the place where the priest wanted to build a water ride. In 2011, it was announced that the park would be demolished. Months before the announcement many organizations were trying to do something to reopen the park, but nothing was accomplished because they couldn’t find investors who would like to participate in the project.

One of the many slides in the park. Author: nnes. CC BY-SA 2.0

One of the many slides in the park. Author: nnes. CC BY-SA 2.0

The last effort to save the park was made by the Dadipark Blijft group who asked locals if they wanted the place to be turned into a different recreation area, but there were not enough positive responses. The park was demolished in 2012 and after this nothing remained from the original attractions.

The park was demolished in 2012. Author: Martijn Dehing. CC BY-ND 2.0

The park was demolished in 2012. Author: Martijn Dehing. CC BY-ND 2.0

Three years after the rides were gone the City Council of Dadizele contacted the owner of the place, Dadipark NV, to find a solution for the space. In 2016, a decision was made that the site will become a residential area with green recreation space and it will be known as Dadipark. Dadipark NV together with the province and the municipality of the village are covering the costs for the designs of the new district.