What once was the oldest theme park of Belgium, Dadipark
Once a famous theme park, now nothing more than a field of grass and a pond
October 31, 2011
What was the oldest theme park of Belgium? That was Dadipark, for sure. A truly magical place to explore after years of neglect. It was October 31, 2011 when we arrived at this location. At last we could check it off from our wish list.
As the days were growing shorter the night came quickly and darkness soon surrounded us completely. We parked the car at the back of the park so nobody could see it when the sun came up. My best friend Hannes was with me and as he can cook pretty good we had a delicious dinner on the table.
Yes, we had some luxury during our trip. First off it was a mobilhome Land Rover Defender made to accommodate 7 people with cooking furnace, a lot of storage room and more. But there was one thing we forgot… It was the day of Halloween!
All of a sudden we heard voices and the beam of a flashlight entered the window of the car. Scary, hell yes! I went out to check what was happening and quickly I realised it was October 31. All good, no panic, just some folks having fun exploring the park at night.
Next morning rise and shine for our own explore to come… it was so cool to explore this abandoned park with many attractions hidden behind a thick layer of trees. We missed quite a bit thanks to the Autumn season!
Let’s go back in time…
Dadipark was a 12 hectare recreation park in the centre of Dadizele, a village in Belgium. Pastor Gaston Deweer opened the doors in 1950. Dadizele has been a hotspot among pilgrims since the 14th century. The playground for the kids of the pilgrims who served at the Basilica of Our Lady of Dadizele evolved into an independent theme park.
Big and modern attractions weren’t the main focus of the park but it was a low-profile and affordable park for children. In the spotlight stood an 800-metre long suspension bridge, the longest in Europe at that time. At its peak the park hosted up to 1 million visitors.
And now the sad part of the story…
At some point the park didn’t meet the safety requirements and parents rated it unsafe for their kids. As result Dadipark had to close in 2002 because of an incident on the Nautic Jet. Although several rescue plans were considered, the park was demolished in 2012.
Continue below for more history…
The brain behind
the child-powered attractions
Roger Beernaert, the man who almost entirely built all the attractions of Dadipark. His wife worked 10 years at the park during the summer and his daughter sold ice cream for the kids. It was like a family business. In the winter of 1956 Roger builds a suspension bridge, which was his most cherished masterpiece.
He made the newspaper ‘Het Nieuwsblad’ in July 2012 when the demolitions started.
Read the article here (in Dutch)
Red figures in the mid-1980s
In the mid-1980s the park became a commercial enterprise, but the number of visitors further decreased. Resulting in red figures.
In the year 2000, a tragic accident happened when a 9-year old kid from Kortrijk almost lost his arm in the attraction of the Nautic Jet. This was the last and most serious accident in Dadipark’s history followed by many complaints about the safety, resulting in a further significant decrease of visitors.
The Nautic Jet pictured below.
It was decided to close the park for renovations in 2002 which would last a year, but it never reopened ever since.
Due to financial difficulties and the tough competition from bigger theme parks, Dadipark was forced to close forever, although the company “NV Dadipark” still exists today.
Since 2004, several companies showed interest in buying the park to convert it into a new theme park with modern attractions such as a wild water slide and an event centre, but the urban planning regulations were too strict to attract potential investors. The area is officially destined for daytime recreation, the access has to stay low-profile while only 15 to 20 % can be commercially used.
Several attempts to save the old Dadipark were made, but all of them failed to achieve their goal.
In 2011, the group “Dadipark Blijft” (Dadipark Stays) was created to protect the park from disappearing very soon. Its purpose was to prevent this, but in July 2012, the demolition took place anyway. A Dutch company removed the asbestos from the buildings to tear them down afterwards.
Only the protected trees remained, nothing else was spared.
The municipal administration of Dadizele thought about converting the big do-it-yourself playground into a sports and leisure park, but it just remained an empty park.
A brief history of Belgian theme park Dadipark
‘waar kind koning is | where child is king’
- Dadipark on Wikipedia. Retreived from https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dadipark. Accessed on August 12, 2018.
- Dadipark, waar kinderen de koning waren. Retrieved from https://www.hullabaloo.be/recreatief/dadipark. Published on March 22, 2005 by hullabaloo.be.
- Roger Beernaert ziet met sloop Dadipark levenswerk eindigen. ‘Mijn levenswerk gaat tegen de vlakte’. Retrieved from https://www.nieuwsblad.be/cnt/dmf20120718_00227151. Published on July 19, 2012 by Arne Vansteenkiste on nieuwsblad.be.
Which abandoned theme park do you like the most and what is your story about it? Share below!
© Photos taken by me and Hannes Hulstaert, unless stated otherwise.
» Written by Alan who goes under the name of twin-rhino | Published on August 14, 2018