This story was going to be illustrated by the usual scene of Meg Whibley standing in front of the paddle boats on the lake or by kids climbing up the wall instead of their parents.
“No,” she said. “Let’s do it with a couple of staff members.” Her daughter, Charlie, a 10-year-old twin, just happened to be there too. It was typical really; thinking of the thousands of young people who had worked for her since she took over the running of this fabulous place, Greenhills Adventure Park, and sharing the emotional ties with her family since 2003.
This is the last summer for Greenhills; it all ends the last day of the April school holidays on May 1 when developers move in to construct 66 houses ending an incredible 33-year contribution to local tourism and the joy it has brought to a seemingly infinite number of families.
For Meg, it has been an amazing journey, playing in one of the biggest playgrounds imaginable created by her parents Bill and Marg McKenzie, and growing up to become the manager upon the sad passing of her dear brother, Scott, who died from wretched cancer in 2003 aged 43.
It meant Meg was running this place with three children aged within 15 months and under three years old, and the ties with Greenhills became stronger in 2009 when she leased it off her parents.
As much as we may assume she will pour a lot of sadness at the imminent walking out of the gate for the last time with husband Paul, and their other children, Gidget, 11, and Tess, 10, right now Meg is a little excited.
“I feel that it’s time,” Meg said. “You can be sad if you went broke or something like that, but to me there is a bit of excitement about what we are going to do and who knows what that will be.
“But, you know, it’s 33 years of the place being here and pipes are bursting. Things are happening everywhere, and I feel that we will limp over the line. A compressor went in a cold room two weeks ago and we had to replace it; we have had to make sure everything remains the best it possibly can knowing it’s money we have spent on the last summer.
“I can understand the closing is sad for a lot of people; it is the end of an era for Victor Harbor. There would not be a day that goes by that I get 20 phone calls from people having a moan that we are closing, and it can wear thin when a lot of them had not supported us over the past 33 years.
“That takes some shine off; that feeling of where have they been, but then I feel really good about Greenhills providing 33 years of entertainment for the state and employing all these kids and giving them their first kick-off into the workforce. I think we have to be really proud of what we have done.
“Some of these kids worked here for so long; it became a big part of their life. The friendships they formed were amazing, and they were all from different schools or unis – every walk of life but they were all mates. We had the nerdy ones, the cool ones, but they were on a standard playing field. That is not seen in many work places. They are good young people.
“Every year we have 50-80 young people on the books, and over 33 years you would have to be talking about thousands.
“The thing that has given me the most pleasure has been walking out of the office and looking across the water slide and seeing all of the families picnicing. The sun is out, the grass is green; nothing better. You ask yourself, that’s a nice day out for them all, isn’t it? To me that is what Greenhills has been about; families coming together.
“We still get parents saying, ‘oh I am not going to do anything so do I have to pay to come in?’ Well, yes you do; go and have a game of mini golf with your kids, have some fun with them. As a mum, you go to places and you pay so much for your kids to do something, and you say, ‘oh I won’t bother’ to save money, but here you have to pay, you have to get involved and you should enjoy that. It is easy to get into that trap especially as a mum because we are a breed of put yourself last and don’t use the money on me.”
Meg said it was difficult to start looking at what she was going to do in life after Greenhills because she had so much to do in between. “I need my mind on what I am doing rather than what I am going to do,” she said. “It is important to finish this well and tidy everything up.
“Yes, it has been daunting at times. Unless you have ever had your own business I don’t think that you could have any concept of what it entails and how much money, effort and thought goes into it. Like, you don’t go home at night and leave it all at work… you think about the stresses, and wanting to make everyone happy, and that’s a hard thing to do.”
Meg’s nephew, Duncan McKenzie, recently took some drone footage of the park. She describes it as just phenomenal, and such great memorabilia to keep. You can view it on the website: www.greenhills.com.au
The footage really is magnificent, and you wonder whether had the technology been available years earlier the support for this genuine adventure park would have been greater. But as Meg lamented, the memories remain deep inside for her and so many families, and until the gates close for the last time you enjoy the moment.
When that May day arrives, Meg thinks she will do what she had wanted to do for some years now… go on the giant water slide. She never really had the right moment the past 13 years. Maybe we should seize ours while we still can.