Friday, October 08, 2010

Swinging course, or slippery slope?

Go Ape!, a Maryland-based company, wants to install a "ropes course" in the wooded area of Byrd Park behind the Carillon. Ropes course?

City officials are working with Go Ape!, a Maryland company, to develop a ropes course that would take people on an adventure 40 to 50 feet above ground in the woods behind the Carillon in Byrd Park. The course would include zip-lines, Tarzan swings and obstacles for a high-stepping experience of two to three hours in the trees.
Click here to read a Richmond Times-Dispatch article about the unusual project now being studied by the City of Richmond. For more on the proposed recreational project, including a map showing the area to be affected, click here to read RVANews' article.

The natural wonders offered by Richmond's parks along the James River are spectacular. Whether this activity should intrude on such public property is questionable. Mountain bikers, bird watchers and joggers pursue their recreational treks through the area Go Ape! wants to appropriate without making a mark on the land.

The RT-D article says Go Ape! will build the course at its expense and assume the liability for participants. But does the City Attorney advise that there's no way a personal injury lawyer could bring the City into a lawsuit, should there be some catastrophe? After all, Go Ape! and the City would be partners and the land would still be owned by the City.

Hey, if somebody wants to pay $50 to swing from trees wearing a helmet and harness, why not? But on the face of it this activity seems like it would be better situated on private property.

Some frequent park users, as well as those who live in the neighborhood adjacent to the park, might say the more natural (and free of charge) the trails through that part of town are, the better. They might also see this theme-park-like development as a slippery slope that will allow for more public/private partnerships that could run roughshod over the quiet subtleties of nature.

Instead of invading this publicly-owned sanctuary, which now stands largely undisturbed by modernity, perhaps Go Ape! should cut a deal with some property owner along the river. Or it should simply buy some land and keep all the profits.

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