Bay City Times (Bay City, MI)
Copyright 2008 The Bay City Times. All Rights Reserved.
May 29, 2008
Section: a section
Deer Acres owners say they will retire after this year, hope a buyer will keep park open
For 50 years, families and school children have visited Deer Acres Storybook Amusement Park near Pinconning for a day of fun.
But this year's golden anniversary could be its last. Owners Rodger and Sharyl Cederberg say it's time to retire. The park is up for sale, and if new owners aren't found, the operation may close.
"I have known for a number of years that it needs new blood," said Rodger Cederberg, who has operated the park for 25 years, taking over for his parents. "It finally got to the point where we said, 'Enough is enough.'"
The park, located on M-13 just south of Pinconning, features nursery-rhyme characters, a deer petting area and a handful of rides, including a miniature train and carousel.
Though Rodger Cederberg has yet to talk with possible buyers, he hopes to agree to a deal with someone who will keep the park running. But if not, he is prepared to auction off the individual items and sell the property, something he calls "the absolute worst-case scenario."
The park has previously been appraised at $1 million, according to Cederberg. He's willing to lower his price to $495,000, hoping the buyer will keep the family business running.
"We're just looking for somebody to take it over and keep this going for the area," he said. "We want to keep it alive."
The couple has been contemplating retirement the past few years, and they have come close to selling the park to interested parties. But Rodger, 65, and Sharyl, 62, said age has become more of a factor, and this is definitely their final season.
"We were never at that point to say, 'This is the last year.' It's always been, 'If we don't sell it, we can go one more,'" Rodger Cederberg said. "This year, we're out of here, regardless."
The park was started by Rodger Cederberg's parents, Ernest and Eleanore Cederberg, who envisioned a family amusement park on the east side of the state. While Ernest cleared out the space for the park, Eleanore hand-crafted dozens of figurines to add a "storybook" feel to it.
Rodger Cederberg helped his father with maintaining the park before he took over full-time in the early 1980s. When it first debuted, admission was 35 cents for adults and 25 cents for children, Rodger Cederberg said.
Deborah Genovese brought her second-grade class from St. Thomas Aquinas School in Saginaw to the park on Wednesday. Genovese has been coming to Deer Acres for 15 years, and she said she'd be unhappy to see an ownership change.
"I'll be sad because I like the way they run it. They're good to the kids and they're good to us," she said.
If the new owner decided to keep the operation going, Genovese said she'd stop back for the first year to see if it's still up to par. But if the park is closed, she said, "I'll have to find another end-of-the-year school trip."
Rodger Cederberg said Deer Acres still attracts about 30,000 people annually, on average. The business is currently "break even," but a new, ambitious management could resuscitate it, he said.
"I haven't had the drive to go out and promote and do the things I used to do," he said. "And in today's economy, you can't do that. You've got to be aggressive and go after clientele.
"I know it can be turned around."
Sharyl Cederberg said it will be difficult adjusting to retirement after spending so much time at the park.
"We've worked with people for so many years. It's a memory every day," she said. "It's something we'd like to pass on to somebody else."