West Linn pulls plug on popular Haunted Trail
The Haunted Trail, a popular joint effort on Halloween between the City of West Linn and the Creatures of the Night volunteer group, has come to a sudden end.
The City informed Creatures several weeks ago that it would not have enough resources to support the event this year, according to Creatures spokesperson David Jones. Assistant Parks and Recreation Director Ken Warner confirmed that the Trail won't be offered in 2018, citing the voter-approved general obligation (GO) bond as the primary reason for the cut.
"The Parks department will have numerous projects we are starting now, and we are on a timeline to complete all of these within three years," Warner said. "Looking at the Haunted Trail and the amount of time and staffing that it grew into, we had to make the decision to let it go."
The City and Creatures have worked together on the event since it was introduced at Mary S. Young Park in 2011.
While Creatures handled the bulk of planning and story development for the Haunted Trail, the City organized the concurrent Enchanted Trail for younger children. Parks staff members were also responsible for crowd control, parking management, lighting and onsite vendors, among other things.
All told, Warner estimated that it took 250 staff hours to get the site ready during the week of the event last October.
"Prior to that, it's probably another 250 hours as we set up all the lights," Warner said.
According to Jones, attendance in 2017 tripled that of 2011 — a boon for Creatures that nonetheless put a heavier burden on the City.
"It just became kind of a victim of its own success," Warner said.
The news still came as a shock to Creatures volunteers.
"It's kind of like someone showing up and saying, 'You know Christmas is cancelled, right?'" Jones said. "We had already done our architect drawings and started building the major props and rooms. We were kind of flat-footed. No one could pivot fast enough to try to help us put it together (somewhere else)."
But the Creatures weren't ready to give up. After hearing the news from the City, volunteers agreed that they couldn't let the haunt die just because they lost the trail.
"One of the things we knew was that all of us wanted to continue this," Jones said.
So this year, on the same dates the Haunted Trail was supposed to take place — Oct. 26 and 27 — Creatures will travel to several different communities as a "slash mob."
"We'll be traveling and doing a guerrilla haunt at multiple locations — West Linn, Lake Oswego, Tigard — where we will be showing up and kind of doing large scale haunting with all the effects etcetera and going back the same night," Jones said.
At Tigard's Fearlandia event, for instance, the Creatures are planning to "take over" and give local volunteers a break.
"It's all under the guise of, their actors will be able to walk their own haunt," Jones said. "It's going to be very cool ... No one, as far as we can tell, has done it before."
Jones added that while the Creatures are disappointed, they harbor no ill will toward the City.
"We love West Linn," he said. "We are grateful. (Without them) this couldn't have developed and become what it was."
And Warner left the door open for a possible reboot further down the line.
"It's possible; as we go forward with budgets and personnel, we will be taking a look at what's needed in our community," Warner said. "It could happen."
He added that the Parks department doesn't anticipating any other major changes to the programming it offers.
"The staples will pretty much stay there," he said.