BLUFF CITY, Tenn. - A popular Bluff City amusement park granted a reprieve from getting shut down. Last year, Sullivan County gave Backyard Terrors Dinosaur Park a year to come into compliance with zoning rules. Now the owner is trying to come up with the resources for the improvements still needed.
Owner Chris Kastener made several small changes (compared to the big ones) like a sturdier playground, a covered picnic area, a paved driveway and a new entrance.
"I moved the entrance back anyway to make room for parking, and I needed something better than just the plywood," he said.
Kastner said he's doing his best but he's worried the county will force him to close the beloved park.
"I'm always nervous," he said. "I try to play it off a little bit but I'm always sweating bullets every time I go over there [to the county offices]."
These small changes, and the fact that he hasn't received any recent complaints from neighbors, were enough for the Board of Zoning Appeals to extend his deadline to next year, but county building commissioner Tim Earl said Kastner is not quite in the clear.
"He's got to build a restroom out there, and there are just a few things as far as getting the park arranged correctly, and he's got some issues with some unsafe structures," Earl said.
Now funding the changes is the issue. Kastner estimates (and Earl confirmed) a restromm has an $8,000-$10,000 price tag he just can't afford.
"We don't make probably $5,000 here a year that I pay bills out of," Kastner said. All of the money comes from donations or fees from birthday parties. Kastner said he is exploring options to get the park a 501c3 nonprofit status, and he refuses to charge regular admission.
"I really don't want to charge anything," he said. "That was the first inspiration I had for doing this and I want to stick with that."
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