(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — The longtime owner of Waldameer Park and Water World passed away Sunday at the age of 89. During his time at the park, many of the park’s most famous attractions were established, including the iconic Wacky Shack and the Ravine Flyer.

Erie leaders released statements Monday on behalf of the community.

Senator Dan Laughlin

Senator Dan Laughlin, R-Erie, was among the first to release a statement on the passing of Nelson.

“I join the entire Erie community in mourning the passing of Paul Nelson.”

“Paul’s name to me, and for many in our community, is synonymous with Waldameer Park, one of the oldest and best amusement parks in the country. He gave generations of Erie residents and tourists joyful memories with his iconic park for the more than six decades he ran it.”

“He was a hardworking, God-fearing man who took his commitment to his community and to humanity as seriously as he instilled a fun-loving atmosphere for our children of all ages. His compassion and generosity drove everything he did for his business and his community.”

“Paul Nelson was an example of forward-thinking, groundbreaking youthful thought at any age. He made sure anyone of any means could come and enjoy his park. His spirit – to help others have fun – will live on at the park for years to come. Please join me in expressing sympathy to his wife, Lane, and his entire family and extended group of friends.” 

U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly

U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) commented on the passing of the longtime Erie businessman, “I’m devastated to hear about the loss of Mr. Nelson. He worked tirelessly to make Waldameer the community treasure that it is, and to give families across Northwest Pennsylvania affordable summer entertainment.”

“I’ve personally been inspired by Mr. Nelson’s passion, work ethic, steadfast faith, and desire to make the Erie community a better place. A few years ago, he showed me his 10-year plan to improve Waldameer and expand the park for future generations to enjoy. I think about that as we remember Mr. Nelson’s life today. Paul Nelson will be greatly missed.”

Erie Mayor

Erie Mayor Joe Schember also commented on the passing of Nelson, saying he knew Nelson for at least 30 years, but got to know him well while he was on Erie City Council from 2006 to 2012.

“He made huge improvements to Waldameer,” said Mayor Schember. “He was not doing it to make money. He wanted to entertain people and give people a good place to go with their family. My family and I went to a lot of events there.”

“I remember him talking to me early on about some of the major changes he was making (to the
park). I didn’t say it out loud, but I wondered, ‘Is he going to be able to do this?’ And he did. He did everything that he talked about. He’s done a wonderful job,” Mayor Schember continued. “I enjoyed working with him and I’m really sorry he passed away.”

Millcreek Township

Millcreek Township offered its condolences to the family and friends of Nelson in a statement Monday, saying he was a fixture in the community.

“Paul Nelson was a valued friend of Millcreek Township. His vision and drive will be greatly
missed,” said Millcreek Township Supervisor Kim Clear.

Waldameer Park and Water World

Waldameer Park posted on its Facebook page, “It all started as a dishwasher at age 11, and he was hooked for life…”

“The epitome of hard work, passion, and vision for the future – A true icon of the attractions industry and local community. Thank You, Paul Nelson, for not only your tireless dedication to Waldameer & Water World, but the Erie region as a whole.”