Mask debate continues in southwest Ohio, shifts to target Kings Island

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Kings Island tests new giga coaster

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

A local woman is taking on Kings Island’s new policy of requiring all visitors to wear masks when the amusement park reopens next month.

And so far more than 7,000 signers of Stevi Kurz’ online petition agree with her stance.

“I’m really surprised. I honestly didn’t know what to expect,” said the northern Hamilton County woman, whose family of four spends more than $800 each summer on park and food passes.

The entertainment park has been unable to open due to state orders prompted by the coronavirus but now is scheduled to receive the public on July 2 - 11 when season pass holders will be welcomed back.

The general public can have access beginning July 12.

ExploreMORE: Coronavirus: Kings Island announces 2020 passes valid through next year

But no one is getting inside Kings Island’s gates unless they’re wearing masks, park officials have said, citing federal and other health guidelines for minimizing the possibility of public spread of the coronavirus.

That didn’t sit well with Kurz, whose husband and two children average four trips to Kings Island each week during the summer.

So Kurz started an online petition at calling for Kings Island to alter its policy, which requires all visitors to wear masks even in the outdoor areas of the park.

“I’m trying to get Kings Island to understand a lot of people are opposing their decision on the masks,” said Kurz.

The disagreement over masks is just the latest locally that also saw a street-side demonstration Saturday by dozens opposing the altering of schools due to coronavirus protective measures – including the possibility of having students and teachers wear masks.

ExploreMORE: Demonstrators call for return to school with no restrictions

Kurz is also calling for Kings Island to offer refunds to those who purchased season passes for this summer.

Park officials are instead saying the passes are good for the 2021 season.

The online petition signers rising total surprised Kurz, who contends the masks - especially for children - would be uncomfortable in the typical heat and humidity of southwest Ohio’s summertime weather.

Kings Island officials did not respond to requests to comment Tuesday but in a statement posted on the park’s website, they contend the park is simply following recommended guidelines from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as other health experts.

“Kings Island amusement park has put stringent health, safety and hygiene protocols in place to allow a safe opening,” wrote officials.

“The safety of our guests and associates has always been and will always be our top priority,” wrote Mike Koontz, general manager of Kings Island. “The park’s new health and safety protocols align with CDC recommendations, and have been shaped by information from company and industry health and safety experts, along with our state and local government officials.”

According to park officials Kings Island’s new policy calls for “requirements for all guests, associates and vendors to wear masks as directed by the protocols.”

But Tara Ludwig said she signed the petition because her family of four a season pass holders but that going to Kings Island “wearing masks in 90-degree heat sounds miserable.”

“So much evidence is coming out that face masks are not as effective as we thought they would be,” said Ludwig, who is encouraged by the opposition petition’s growing support.

She said “7,000 is a lot of unhappy customers.”

And Ludwig echoed Kurz in complaining about no refund option to season pass holders being offered.

“These terms weren’t what we agreed to when we purchased our passes,” she said.

Both Kurz and Ludwig said they may be agreeable to some middle ground where masks would only be required inside buildings on the park’s grounds and not while visitors were in open air spaces.

Ludwig said the petition should get park officials’ attention.

“I hope it’s a big wake up call for Kings Island,” she said.

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