I-Team uncovers documents at Enchanted Forest
HOPKINTON, R.I. —
It was a place to make memories for generations of Rhode Island families.
The Enchanted Forest was a home-grown amusement park in Hope Valley.
When the park closed in 2005, the rides were auctioned off, the music stopped, and the children were gone.
The property is now overgrown and vandalized. It is left open to the elements and to anyone walking by.
That's how Noel Justice found it earlier this year.
"Actually, I was hiking on the road and there were papers out toward the driveway. One after another I found them and it sort of led a trail inside here," Justice said.
Those papers -- what appear to be old employment applications, tax forms and other business documents dating to 1973 -- list employees' personal information.
The site was unfenced, with no "no trespassing" signs when the I-Team visited in June. NBC 10 saw evidence of other visitors, including vandalism throughout the site.
Justice came to the NBC 10 I-Team for help.
"I just noticed some of the papers had names, addresses, phone numbers, Social Security numbers. I thought that shouldn't be blowing around in the wind, you know," Justice said.
The trail of papers led him to what appears to be an old office building, doors and windows ripped off, documents spilled on the floor.
What did he think when he realized what kind of information was in there?
"I think anything with a Social Security number scared me," Justice said. "When you see the Social Security numbers just lying around in the yard, it's a little spooky. I wouldn't want my number floating around out there."
Neither would the I-Team.
The I-Team left everything it found at the site. Then, NBC 10 checked the names we saw against public records and tracked down former employee Hannah Benoit.
"I was appalled and very surprised, but relieved that you told me," Benoit said.
The I-Team found Benoit's Social Security number during a visit to the Enchanted Forest site. She's now a photographer in Boston, but worked at the Enchanted Forest in 1973, playing Little Bo Peep.
"I remember I was right next to the Old Woman Who Lived in the Shoe," Benoit said.
What would she like to see the owner do going forward?"
"I'd like to see him go in there and pick up everything and shred it, as he should have done a while ago," Benoit said.
Who owns the property off Route 3 in Hopkinton? The I-Team tracked down Rhode Island company TRD Enterprises.
Owner Harold Fera told the I-Team in an email June 25: "I would like to thank you for bringing this matter to my attention. I was unaware of the issue and the extent of the vandalism ... I am taking all of the recovered documents to a shredding facility so that they are destroyed."
Ten days later, another email from Fera's attorney took a different tone, warning NBC 10 not to run a story.
The attorney said his clients "vehemently deny that they allowed any employment records to exist on their property" and that if any records were found " they had to be planted there by third parties over whom my clients had no control." (Read complete email.)
The property owner's attorney told the I-Team that the documents date to a previous owner and that the Enchanted Forest site is now secure.
The I-Team went back to Hope Valley on Monday afternoon to see if any of the changes were visible form the road.
NBC 10 encountered two college students who went for a hike and explored the old Enchanted Forest site on Monday.
That was several days after the I-Team was told the property was secured, and almost two weeks after the owner told me the documents NBC 10 saw were being shredded.
The students showed the I-Team business documents, including old checks they found on the site.
They said they could get into the buildings where the paperwork was.
"Yeah, absolutely. That's where we got all this," one of them said.
They said there were no fences or anything to keep people out.
"No. None at all. I mean, at least not that we've seen," the student said.
The I-Team contacted the property owner and the attorney Monday night to ask when the site would be secured and the documents shredded.
So far, the I-Team has not received a response.