Proposed 'Whirligig Woods' theme park brings whirlwind of controversy to Saxapahaw

Posted May 4

— Saxapahaw residents are hoping they can stop plans to build a theme park in their small Alamance County town.

Theme park designer Bob Baranick, who has worked on projects including Disney parks around the world, bought 21 acres of land along N.C. Highway 87 with plans to build Whirligig Woods- a theme park that would include thrill rides, a haunted land and a tree house resort.

Residents are concerned about the impact the theme park would have on the Haw River and worry about an increase in traffic and noise.

"I often joke with people that as soon as a stoplight comes to Saxapahaw, I'm out of here. Well, that would bring stoplights," said Joe Jacob, who owns Haw River Canoe and Kayak. "I see it as something that will change the local character of this community."

Emily Sutton of the Haw River Assembly, a river advocacy group, fears the park would not be conducive to the community.

“I think that, as it stands right now, it doesn’t fit into the community but Saxapahaw has such a cool history and, I mean, it’s a river town and I think that there is an opportunity for that to be reflected in the Whirligig park,” Sutton said.

Baranick said Whirligig Woods would celebrate the natural landscape and cater to families with younger children. He said he is taking the concerns of local residents to heart, saying “they have a lot of good points.”

"It would have been wise to touch base with the community before he decided to do what he decided to do," Jacob said.

Baranick emphasized that the theme park would be small, not the size of parks like Carowinds or Busch Gardens.

Jim Fletcher, who lives near the proposed site for the theme park said he thinks it will bring more business to the area.

"If anything, it's going to make it better. It's going to bring more children here, more chances for education," Fletcher said.

The project has yet to break ground and Baranick said it will likely be at least 18 months before construction begins, if ever. The project needs more investors and more buy-in from the community before it goes forward.

Baranick said he chose the location because it is scenic and in close proximity to the Triangle and Triad.


Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • Ed Smail May 5, 7:49 a.m.
    user avatar

    With a average median income of 50k per year, why would the folks in Saxapahaw not want to increase jobs and business opportunities.

  • Russell Townshend May 5, 7:16 a.m.
    user avatar

    I think it is an interesting opportunity for the locavore food producers in the area to gather around and ensure the park only offers local, organic food. Also, no poisons (pesticides or herbicides) used on the grounds, imagine that? What a shift from the norm that would be :) A little bit of prosperity would be a good thing in the area - just don't overdo it. Saxapahaw is a cool and relatively undiscovered place.

  • John Kramer May 5, 6:50 a.m.
    user avatar

    Can't wait to see it built! Sounds like FUN!