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Judge sets Sept. 1 hearing on 123-year-old Conneaut Lake amusement park's Chapter 11 exit plan

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ERIE, Pennsylvania — A judge has set a Sept. 1 hearing on a plan by a 123-year-old amusement park to exit bankruptcy protection.

The nonprofit board that runs Conneaut Lake Park last year filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to prevent a sheriff's sale.

The bankruptcy exit plan filed last week calls for $927,000 in delinquent property taxes to be paid within a year. But $2.9 million in debts to other creditors could take as long as 20 years to repay and, even then, the plan offers other creditors "the potential for a modest recovery," meaning only part of the money they're owed.

The plan includes raising an estimated $900,000 to $1.3 million by selling 330 linear feet of lakefront property that's not needed to run the northwestern Pennsylvania park, which is home to one of the nation's oldest roller coasters, the Blue Streak. The executive director of the park's trustees, Mark Turner, said that estimate is based on the value of other lakeside parcels.

The park's trustees opened the park for the summer under management of the Economic Progress Alliance of Crawford County, with the help of $300,000 in loans. The Chapter 11 repayment plan also requires using a $611,000 insurance settlement from a fire that destroyed the Conneaut Lake Park Beach Club in 2013 to help pay the tax debt and using future park revenue to pay the other debts.

Attorney Larry Bolla, representing the taxing bodies — Crawford County, Conneaut School District and Sadsbury and Summit townships — was skeptical of the plan.

"We are not of the thinking that there is enough value there to pay all the bills," Bolla said.

He noted that most repayment plans in Chapter 11 bankruptcies last three to five years, not 20.

Chief U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jeffrey Deller, in Erie, gave creditors until Aug. 25 to comment on or object to the plan.

The park, about 95 miles north of Pittsburgh, opened in 1892.

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