When Mom and Pop Can’t Sell the Farm (or in This Case, the Theme Park)

A once family-owned Frontier Town in New York’s Hudson Valley shut down in the late 1990s, its buildings still vacant. Early this year, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York proposed a $32 million redevelopment of the 85-acre site, including a visitor information center, a campground, facilities for shows and festivals, and space for historic exhibits about Adirondack Park.

Ponderosa Ranch, a theme park that operated in Lake Tahoe, Calif., set of “Bonanza,” shut down over a decade ago.

Donley’s Wild West Town is still the site of many happy childhood memories — particularly for the Donley grandchildren.

“As a child growing up, it was like a fairy tale,” said Shawnah Donley, 29, the daughter of Randy Donley. “It was our backyard, and we were part of what our family did for a living.”

She grew up nearby and recalls school field trips to Wild West Town. After college, Ms. Donley got a job in the live action Wild West show, where her work caught the attention of a talent scout. That led to her professional career as a stunt actor, with credits that include the movie “Contagion” and the NBC television series “Chicago Fire.” She now lives in Chicago and also works as a real estate broker. But while she says her generation, which includes a younger brother and a cousin, hopes to see the park continue to operate, the fact that her family is looking to sell it isn’t a surprise.

“It’s always something that we thought would happen,” she said. “We have our own interests and futures.”

Photo

The phonograph section in Wild West Town’s museum.

Credit
David Kasnic for The New York Times

The Donleys have always been collectors of trinkets and oddities. Larry Donley acquired the first seven acres of the property in 1972 so he could build a storehouse for the antique phonographs and other things he had begun collecting decades earlier. “I…

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