Fall Creek Falls State Park Opening Aerial Adventure Park and Zipline

6
Jun

Article by Ben Benton from the Chattanooga Times Free Press

PIKEVILLE, Tenn. — Starting this summer, Fall Creek Falls State Park will be the setting for a Spiderman-like experience of nature from above with the opening of an aerial adventure park.

ArborTrek Canopy Adventures and The Adventure Guild LLC are in the final stages of creating the park — a 2.5-hour self-guided tour that allows visitors to explore the hardwoods overlooking Fall Creek Falls Lake at their own pace through six courses and up to 70 elements, graded from easy to extreme.

Michael Smith, president of ArborTrek/ZIPStream Fall Creek Falls, said Thursday that about two-thirds of the project is complete for the “soft” opening on June 14.

A grand opening with all six courses fully functioning is scheduled for June 27.

Don Stock is the designer and builder of the aerial adventure project and co-owner with his wife, Kim, of Chattanooga-based The Adventure Guild LLC. Stock said the new facility is a first among Tennessee’s state parks and will be a model for elsewhere. The Stocks’ company operates the ZIPStream aerial adventure park at Ruby Falls in Chattanooga.

“This is the model that was born in France and Switzerland,” Stock said of the basic design. “It’s a very creative, organic sort of experience.”

Fall Creek Falls State Park is Tennessee’s largest and most-visited state park with more than 26,000 acres crisscrossed with sparkling streams, waterfalls, and deep gorges filled with all kinds of wildlife. The park has an inn, camping, cabins, and in recent years has been the target of renovations and updates.

Tennessee State Parks Deputy Commissioner Brock Hill said in a statement that he believes park visitors of all ages will enjoy the attraction.

“We are very excited to introduce this great new addition to Fall Creek Falls,” Hill said.

Stock, 46, said the adventure course is the first new attraction Fall Creek Falls has added since it opened in the 1970s.

“It’s a wonderful place, but there’s not been anything new to revitalize and energize the place up to this point,” he said.

In the aerial adventure park, visitors ages “4 to 94” just take a few steps up to a platform atop a knoll overlooking the lake, connect their full-body harness to a flexible lifeline system that follows the path through the forest along obstacles made mostly of wood, rope, steel cable and bolts, gaining altitude a little at a time as the terrain falls away below. Some elements are up to 40 feet above the forest floor.

There are weight and size requirements for safety’s sake, according to Stock.

Zip lines — consisting of a heavy, tight-drawn cable that participants connect themselves to with a zip line trolley and “smart-belay” lanyard — allow users to glide through the trees from one landing platform to the next between obstacles.

Obstacles include elements like ladders, bridges that teeter precariously, balance beams, cargo nets and rope swings that provide heart-thumping thrills in a safe environment.

“This is so much more than just a zip line,” he said.

Stock said every participant first goes through “ground school” on a demonstration course to learn how to properly use the belay system and harness, and to get a feel for the obstacles they’ll face on the self-guided canopy tour.

“The classic aerial adventure park is all on flat ground,” Stock said, noting the course at Ruby Falls required design on a slope. “We’ve gotten pretty good at working on uneven ground. We have to figure out how to best use the terrain because it’s such a cool space.”

Stock hopes ZIPStream becomes well-known in adventurers’ circles.

“It’s definitely different than our other courses,” said Jason Redford, one of the crew of 20-somethings adjusting equipment and element structures on Thursday who also worked at Ruby Falls’ adventure park the last couple of years.

“For the area and the scenery that we get, you can’t beat it. It’s pretty awesome,” Redford said. “There’s a lot more platforms, a lot more elements, a lot more options.”

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *