Silverwood looks to grow

Theme park seeks zoning change for additional 95-acre parcel

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Silverwood Theme Park could be expanding, with the hint of new rides to come.

The Athol theme park is pursuing a zoning change on a neighboring 95-acre parcel owned by park owner Gary Norton, who hopes to one day extend attractions there.

"At this time it's very preliminary," said park spokeswoman Nancy DiGiammarco. "We don't have anything specific we're looking at to add there, but we're always talking about new attractions. 'Gee, what could we be building next?'"

A Kootenai County examiner will hold a hearing in June over the proposal to change the parcel from rural to commercial.

Currently the acreage, separated from the park by the gravel Brunner Road, only contains Silverwood's sewer treatment facility.

The park only plans to build attractions on a portion of the parcel, DiGiammarco said, though she didn't know the exact acreage.

"Our owner is an individual that is always thinking of new ideas and new attractions, so that could happen at any time," she said. "Our first step is to change from rural to commercial, and I imagine from that point on, designs will start being created."

Rumors that the company would build a hotel on the land aren't true, she added.

"Just attractions, doing what we do best," she said, adding that the zone change would also allow the sewage plant to remain there permanently.

The park is pursuing the rezoning now because of pending transportation projects in the area, she added.

"There are other things happening around us," she said. "Right now seems to be the time to get all this taken care of."

The hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. on June 2 in hearing Room 1 of the county Administration Building on Government Way.

The expansion has raised concerns for Athol resident Paige Lewis, who said she moved to the area six years ago to have a remote homestead.

The latest attractions Silverwood has brought in have ruffled her quiet living with noise and a bad view, the 60-year-old said.

She doesn't like the idea of more.

"We bought out here because it's rural, not because we wanted to live in Anaheim," said Lewis, who lives about two miles from the park.

She added that Silverwood management might change its mind and put in a hotel later, which could bring in disorderly neighbors.

"Once it's zoned commercial, there is no stopping what they want to put out there," Lewis said.

DiGiammarco said Norton has confirmed that no hotel is ever going to happen.

Silverwood is currently investing $2 million on new attractions at its water park, including the "Richocet Rapids" raft ride.

The park sits on about 216 acres, with more than 65 rides, slides, shows and attractions. It opened in 1988, and has grown to become the most attended attraction in the state of Idaho, DiGiammarco said.

"I believe Silverwood has brought something unique and different to North Idaho, making sure our region stands out as a tourist destination," she said.

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