(July 3 photo: Child playing hide-and-seek while opponents led tour of the potential Go Ape course zone)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The Seattle Parks employees who have been working on the proposed Go Ape zipline/tree swing “treetop adventure” attraction in West Seattle’s Lincoln Park will make their first public presentation tomorrow night, 11 months after the city decided to explore a potential partnership with the company.
Fauntleroy Community Association president Bruce Butterfield confirms that Rebecca Salinas and Charles Ng from Parks’ Partnerships division will be at his group’s July board meeting (7 pm Tuesday) – which he has moved to a larger space at The Hall at Fauntleroy, to accommodate all those interested in hearing/speaking about it. (ADDED TUESDAY: He says Go Ape‘s Chris Swallow will be there too.)
Butterfield (above, standing) also joined a pre-meeting tonight, billed as an “informal gathering” of people who are opposed to/concerned about the proposal. More than 30 people showed up for an organizational/strategy session at C & P Coffee Company (WSB sponsor). They say that will help them be ready for tomorrow night (more on their discussion a little later in this report).
FCA contacted Parks about the proposal after we asked Butterfield what if anything he and his group had heard about it, while we were working on the research that led to our original June 28th story about the plan, which this “project summary” document says has been in the works since last August. (Last Thursday, in his first public statement on the proposal – read it here – Parks’ longtime acting superintendent Christopher Williams described to the process so far as “internal due diligence.”)
Ahead – what’s happened so far, what we’ve learned about Go Ape’s basic course design and construction process, and toplines from tonight’s meeting:
If you’re just coming in on this:
On June 28th, Parks confirmed to WSB that it was working with the UK-founded company Go Ape, which operates three “treetop adventure” courses and more than two dozen overseas (and operates in Australia as Adventure Forest), on a proposal to build one in central Lincoln Park. We had received a tip from a community member to whom information had been forwarded.
One of the e-mails we subsequently received from several people included a PowerPoint presentation (see it here in its entirety) prepared by Go Ape, which included this map of where they propose putting their facility in Lincoln Park:
Go Ape courses are described as using about one acre on the ground and 6 to 10 acres in the trees. From a generic version of the Go Ape presentation that we found online (see it here), here are two pages that aren’t in the Seattle version of the PowerPoint, including the standard course design, shown here:
The courses’ templatization was mentioned by Go Ape co-founder Tristram Mayhew in a British interview last year, in which he was quoted as saying that his company can now “roll out Go Ape courses in our sleep.” That story also mentioned they were diversifying, including adding Segway use to some of their British sites (their UK website lists 8 where it is offered now).
To use a Go Ape course costs $55 adults/$35 kids (US prices for 2012, tax not included), Go Ape offers customers ages 10 and up – those under 18 must be accompanied by an adult – a 2- to 3-hour “adventure” described as:
We take one lush, green forest and a healthy dose of breathtaking scenery; blend with a smattering of treetop high wires, tricky crossings (using ladders, walkways, bridges and tunnels made of wood, rope and super-strong wire) and wind-in-your-face zip lines; finished off with a mega dose of people in search of their inner Tarzan.
We then equip people with harnesses, pulleys and carabiners, give them a 30 minute safety briefing and training and let them loose into the forest canopy, free to fly on zip lines and swing through the trees.
Customers are launched in groups of 14 every half-hour.
A Parks spokesperson told WSB that Go Ape would not be charged rent for its use of Lincoln Park land and trees. In its Lincoln Park-geared PowerPoint, the company says that it expects a $40,000-$65,000 revenue share for the city each year – this is also the number cited in the generic PowerPoint – and that it will donate 900 tickets a year, with an estimated worth of $50,000 (if all were at the adult rate, it would total $49,500).
If the project gets final approval – ultimately, the City Council is the end of the line – it would be built next year, according to the Go Ape project summary:
Once the outreach process is complete, Go Ape hopes to begin development in late spring 2013, which will take
approximately 4-6 weeks.
Go Ape courses are built by a France-based construction partner, Altus Outdoor Concepts, according to sources including the second page of this proposal made for an East Coast project in fall 2010.
While Parks has various commercial partners, this partnership would be precedent-setting in establishing a commercial attraction of this size and nature in a Seattle city park. Our first report drew one of the biggest responses of any story we have ever published, outside of ongoing snow coverage, with 250 comments to date.
Since then, people concerned about/opposed to it have launched several organizational efforts. First was this Facebook page. Then a Facebook group followed. And now, a website, PreserveLincolnPark.com.
So far, we have not found any organized efforts supporting the proposal (if you know of one, please let us know).
Critics’ concerns are wide-ranging, with a particular emphasis on the park’s birds, including bald eagles and owls who have raised their young there, past and present. There is also concern for the trees in the park’s central forest; development of some Go Ape facilities has included tree-cutting, according to media reports such as this one. The Seattle project summary says, “Go Ape uses no heavy machinery during our builds nor requires the felling of any mature trees.” Adding a tourist attraction to an already high-use park – with its parking lots jammed on summer days – is another source of concern.
The group that gathered at C & P tonight attempted to come up with a mission statement and a list of concerns.
They explored focuses such as preserving “the urban sanctuary,” protecting “the natural legacy that we inherited now and for future generations,” and safeguarding the park “against high-impact usage.”
Participants stressed that they are not opposed to concessions in Parks – there is no question that the city already has partnerships with many of them. The point, they feel, is that this is not the right project for Lincoln Park.
That was echoed by FCA’s Butterfield, who outlined for tonight’s attendees how his group’s meeting will be laid out tomorrow night. Parks will have a presentation, he said, and so will FCA. They will have signups for speakers, who will be given a 2-minute limit. The meeting, he said, is about Lincoln Park, and how this is not what the neighborhood wants to see there.
Meantime, those who gathered tonight also talked about further meetings of their nascent group, and a central set of talking points, along with a petition. They also are looking ahead to what at this point will be the second public presentation/discussion, at the Morgan Community Association’s quarterly meeting next week (Wednesday, July 18, 7 pm, The Kenney [WSB sponsor]).
That meeting, like tomorrow night’s Fauntleroy Community Association meeting, is open to the public. Parks has said it plans to arrange a public meeting specifically about the project next month, but no date has been announced so far.
WSB stories about the Lincoln Park zipline proposal now have a specific archive: Find them here.