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Judge Lifts Order : Wild Rivers Theme Park Nears Debut

Times Staff Writer

The group that wants to open a water-theme amusement park in Irvine got two pieces of good news Thursday.

First, Southern California Edison Co. turned on the electricity for the $5-million park, called Wild Rivers at Lion Country.

Second, Orange County Superior Court Judge Harmon G. Scoville lifted an earlier order prohibiting the park’s grand opening.

“We’ll open just as soon as possible,” said Bill Draney, an official of one of the firms trying to open the park on the site of now-defunct Lion Country Safari. “That will probably be early next week, or the middle of next week.”

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The Irvine Co., which owns the land on which the park was developed, had won a temporary court order barring an opening. The Irvine Co. claimed that the Splash Inc. and American Sportsworld Inc., the developers, failed to secure enough liability insurance.

Personal Pledges

The Splash claimed that the Irvine Co. forced it to agree to find $10 million in insurance coverage. Park operators had provided $6 million in liability insurance and posted personal pledges for the remaining $4 million in Scoville’s court Thursday.

Scoville found that the park operators “have made a good-faith effort” to obtain the additional insurance but failed.

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“In the opinion of this court, it would be a great injustice and inequitable to not allow the water park to open,” Scoville ruled. Irvine Co. executive Christopher B. Mahon said he was “satisfied.”

The park has "$10 million in protection,” Mahon said. “Our motivation for getting into this in the first place was to protect the public. We’re satisfied with that.”

In an unusual twist, Scoville noted that Proposition 51 was passed overwhelmingly by California voters June 3. The controversial measure could limit the damages that the Irvine Co. might theoretically be required to pay as landowner for injuries that might occur at the park.

“It would offend this court’s sense of equity and justice to grant an injunction that could result in a forfeiture and loss of millions of dollars to (park operators) and frustrate the opening of the water park for public use,” Scoville ruled.

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The park has yet to receive operating permits from the City of Irvine.

Draney said he did not think that the public would be affected by the debate over insurance and safety. He said the park has sold more than 5,000 season passes.

“We’ve only had two requests for refunds,” Draney said.


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