THE magic is finally over. After 35 years as one of Port Macquarie's most popular tourist attractions, Fantasy Glades will close its doors for the last time on April 28.
The announcement was made yesterday by manager and part-owner Brian Hutchinson who attributed the decision to the age and ill-health of partners and park operators Pat and George Spry and the difficulty they would have in selling the park.
Mr Hutchinson said the question of closing the park had only arisen recently when 75-year-old Mr Spry was admitted to hospital for the third time this year and it became clear working 100 hours a week was no longer possible.
The decision came so quickly in fact that the new attraction, 'Pirates Cove Adventure', is only partly completed.
While the Sprys understood and were saddened by the loss of the attraction to Port Macquarie, Mr Hutchinson said, the long hours and need to be involved in every aspect of the park's operation would make it impossible to sell.
"We know enough about the business to know ... that when you're talking about this kind of property, you're talking in terms of millions to buy it and someone who would have that kind of money is only going to be interested in the administrative side and counting the money," he said.
"The park just isn't built that way."
Despite rumours, increases in public liability insurance was not a factor in the decision to close, he said.
In terms of developing the site, as is the case with Peppermint Park, Mr Hutchinson said that wouldn't be possible because of the zoning classification of ‘open space recreation'.
While the park residence and three adjoining residential house blocks will be sold, the park itself was expected to become an extension of the neighbouring koala reserve, he said.
Mr Hutchinson said they were proud of what they had achieved with the park in the last 15 years, considering many had written it off in 1987 when the previous owners failed to sell it initially.
"We look at it in terms of the fact no-one thought it would survive 15 years ago and today it's three times the size and been successful in winning NSW tourism awards for excellence and an Australian tourism award. We've taken it as far as it can go," he said.
The park employs four full-time staff, and Mr Hutchinson said they had all supported the decision to close.