No one today would consider the northwestern corner of Bergen County to be a resort paradise, but for the first half of the 20th century that’s exactly what it was. In researching the history of the Ramapo River I happened upon several sources describing Oakland as a summer resort town. From the early 1900’s through the 1960’s Oakland was home to a number of resorts located on the banks of the Ramapo River. The quiet town of Oakland would almost quadruple in size during the summer months to accommodate all of the incoming tourists from the urban centers of the tri-state area. Even boxing greats like Joe Louis and Sugar Ray Robinson were commonly sighted in the resort area of Oakland, which was near their training camp in Pompton Lakes. The multiple resorts and beaches that lined the banks of the Ramapo in Oakland gave fond memories to an untold number of families. In the 1960’s one of the River resorts called Pleasureland was a successful music venue, hosting many popular bands. The Turtles, The Swinging Medallions, Question Mark and The Mysterians, and Vanilla Fudge have all headlined at Pleasureland. According to one source from the Oakland Journal, Vanilla Fudge played a gig at Pleasureland in 1967 the night before their self-titled first album debuted. The beginning of the 1970’s brought the end to the heyday of the Ramapo River resort area.
Throughout the decades to come the resorts along the Ramapo closed, the bungalows that sprung up to accommodate the hordes of vacationers were eventually all purchased as private year-round homes, and by the 1980’s only 2 of the resorts remained open; Pleaseureland and Muller’s Sports Complex (also called FRG). All of the decades of summer fun and warmhearted memories at the Ramapo River Resort area were effectively wiped away in one fateful evening in 1985. In an attempt to boost profits, the owners of the resort complexes began chartering groups in and hosting a multitude of events. On August 4th 1985, the complex was hosting an event celebrating Jamaican Independence day, in the midst of the celebration a man began to rain bullets into the crowd from a concession pavilion. From this a shootout ensued, most of the accounts differ in their facts from there on out, but one consistent fact is that two men died in the impending shootout and at least ten people were wounded. Some claim two rival gangs used the resort as their own personal war zone that night; while others insist it was the act of one unhinged individual. After that incident, the resorts on the Ramapo never welcomed another guest. Today only remnants of pavilions, tattered shells of buildings, and pools filled with decades of neglect are all that remain of the family vacation setting from the first half of the 20th century. Just beyond the busy intersection of Long Hill road and Ramapo Valley road in Oakland, New Jersey, lays the ruins of the Ramapo River’s forgotten past. What was formerly a summer resort paradise is now rubble and memories degrading just a few hundred yards from the bustling roads that once brought eager vacationers. The banks of the Ramapo River boomed with summer bungalows and beach resorts, but those memories have slipped into obscurity at the behest of a tainted memory from one night of horror.