Lincoln Park zipline attraction? Opponents strategize on eve of Parks’ first public presentation

(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,

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.

33 Replies to "Lincoln Park zipline attraction? Opponents strategize on eve of Parks' first public presentation"

  • sonoma July 10, 2012 (2:00 am)

    Thank you for your coverage of this important issue. I was impressed by the turnout at Monday’s preliminary meeting – and let’s hope for lots more at the Tuesday meeting.

    P.S. I just emailed our councilmembers and voiced my vehement opposition, but when I tried reach our mayor using the comments section of his Web page, I got an error message. I guess I’ll retry later. We need our voices to be heard.

  • Parkuser July 10, 2012 (7:12 am)

    The city doesn’t get it, GoApe doesn’t get it. When do they understand that the word NO means NO! I’m happy to be a NIMBY.

  • joseph July 10, 2012 (7:31 am)

    These people need to get over themselves. Really they have zip lines in other eco habitats and there seems to be no problem there. In the documents it shows it is using a small portion of the park that is close to the parking area. I look forward to trying this out looks fun. My only concern is the parking problem that may arise.

  • elaine July 10, 2012 (7:34 am)

    The revenue expected for the city is laughable and not worth the risk of ruining one of Seattle’s most beautiful and pristine parks. What’s next? A water slide? If the meeting planners can’t accommodate enough parking at the park for attendees, where do they thing people are supposed to park who start coming to the “Go ape” thingy? I can also foresee the city getting sued for accidents, environmental damage, etc… caused by this foolish endeavor. I’d rather be charged an admission fee to get into the park than have this thing be built. I think it is so sad the Parks Dept. of all people would be advocating for this Go Ape $#it.

  • doghouse July 10, 2012 (8:06 am)

    I do NOT want this treetop adventure in our treasured Lincoln Park! If you agree let the city know now.

  • ttt July 10, 2012 (8:28 am)

    Go Ape would be better suited for a private landowner’s property. City parks, like Lincoln Park should be kept as a sanctuary to animals, fauna, and a place for people to enjoy them both. My biggest concern is that screams would be heard on a regular basis from the Go Ape customers. How does that make for a peaceful park? My family and I enjoy Lincoln park because once we are there we truly feel out of the city… I love “thrill rides” but am not a fan of this location for one. If you want to do a zipline, go to NW Trek ( a privately owned property). If the animals in NW Trek get scared by the screams of the zipline patrons they can easily move to more beautiful forest habitat anywhere around the Eatonville area. Here, the animals have very little habitat to retreat to… I cannot be at the meeting tonight. I hope others who will be there will bring up the points people on the WSB comments have expressed.

  • let them swim July 10, 2012 (8:28 am)

    Let them build it in Lower Woodland Park, Discovery Park. Not here. I wonder how those communities would welcome a Zip Line. I say zip no. Parking is hell now. Would they want to tear away some of nature for parking. No zip. Just zip it up and through this idea in the trash.

  • Clarissa July 10, 2012 (9:06 am)

    Tiger mountain would be the perfect place!!!! Not a residential area! Boooo!

  • B-squared July 10, 2012 (9:11 am)

    Thanks for the ongoing coverage of this, WSB. I am sorry I missed the organizational meeting. I am insensed that this proposal has even made it this far. The countless volunteer hours that have gone in to preserving and restoring the natural areas of Lincoln Park were not spent with the intention of providing an adrenaline-based concession with a suitable environment to degrade. This ongoing volunteer effort is made to ensure that the areas deemed “natural” in the park remain healthy. We have pulled TONS of invasive species out of the park in an effort to protect the remaining trees and allow for forest renewal. We have planted hundreds of native trees and shrubs. Although the restorative peace that comes from a stroll through these woods or the wonder a child experiences watching a baby owl can not be measured economically, its value is by no means insignificant. These experiences are already in short supply – and we will all be losers if Go Ape is allowed to proceed.

  • Karen r July 10, 2012 (9:16 am)

    This is a terrible proposal and I will be there tonight. I wasn’t aware they would also cut down trees, just not “mature ones”. The more we find out about this the worse it gets. Thank you WSB for letting our community know what our Parks Dept. Is up to. Question: are they working on other revenue generating proposals in addition to this one?

  • marty July 10, 2012 (9:28 am)

    If the city was to manage this concession like it has historically managed their golf business it will LOSE money.

  • coyote July 10, 2012 (9:30 am)

    Zip lines are boring and are designed as attractions for tourists in tourist destinations.

    Its laughable that they want to charge $35 for a single kid. Let alone $55 for the adults.

    It’s like this is one big bad joke.
    Is somebody trolling?

  • dcn July 10, 2012 (10:17 am)

    If the Go Ape proposal is approved, I’m willing to chain my 4 year old to a tree to stop construction. Although, I don’t know if that would be any better for the serenity of the park, since he can holler louder than any zip liner.

  • dcn July 10, 2012 (10:28 am)

    This was an idea from the meeting yesterday at C&P: If you are going to the meeting tonight to protest the park, wear green. It will make a good visual impression, since many of us will probably not be speaking individually.

  • cruzer July 10, 2012 (10:33 am)




    Lincoln Park is a much smaller footprint than the other “nature preserves” people ask about here, is a tiny oasis of nature surrounded by a million people! Several protected species make their homes here including established BALD EAGLE NESTS. There is enough pressure on the park already by the healthy usage it gets from the community. Apes please GO ziplining at Northwest Trek, don’t destroy Lincoln Park!

    STOP GO APE !!

  • WS Mom July 10, 2012 (11:06 am)

    I’d like to set up a stand in the park selling CDs of “nature sounds” for those folks that actually want to hear what “real nature” sounds like. I’ll rent headphones for them to wear during their park experience. Also, maybe I will expand my operation and sell taxidermied animals and sea creatures for those who want to experience wildlife. Oh! I could even sell plastic replicas of genuine plants and trees! To solve this so-called parking issue, let’s put in a cruise ship dock at the bottom of the park. Sha-blam…parking problem solved! Wow, this is gonna be great! And, I promise to share some of my profits with the City. ;)

  • Trileigh July 10, 2012 (11:36 am)

    The proposed zipline would occupy up to 10 acres of the central “Natural forested area” (terminology from the official Parks and Rec Vegetation Management Plan for Lincoln Park). This forested area on the upper flat part of the park — i.e., not including the steep slopes or the separate woods at the north end — includes only 35.4 acres. Therefore, the proposed commercial operation would take up **over a quarter** of the central forested habitat. That’s a huge chunk if you’re a bird trying to raise your youngsters.

  • NikkiTaMere July 10, 2012 (11:40 am)

    Really insane. Who in our cash strapped gov’t OK’d the go ahead for some plan that ONLY rips off the public, damages the park for other users (people, plants, and animals) — so they can sit back and profit off this?
    It’s good that the FCA set up a meeting — but for anyone who bothers to go to the meeting, I predict you will be vastly disappointed — you’ll get nothing but a PR piece about how great the company is, & will dismiss or refuse all questions and concerns.
    Welcome to your plutocratic dystopia, where even things that were formally taken for granted (education, parks, good roads) will be reserved for the rich and fatuous.

    “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. “

  • Kayzel July 10, 2012 (11:43 am)

    It is really disturbing to me that increasingly, those with a profit motive see our parks not as natural public open spaces, but as blank spaces to be developed, to be filled up, to be “activated.” That Parks would buy in (pun intended) to these proposals is like the fox guarding the hen house. Strategic park planning seems a thing of the past.

  • Robert July 10, 2012 (11:59 am)

    Do people honestly expect a company named “Go Ape” to show restraint and care? Think about it.

  • Grundle July 10, 2012 (12:20 pm)

    I don’t understand why this wouldn’t be subject to an EIS or the SEPA process?

  • WSB July 10, 2012 (1:22 pm)

    Folks, even on a hot topic, we expect civility. Our basic rule: Criticize the comment, not the commenter. Comments that take a dig at, make an accusation against, etc., a commenter will not be approved for publication. Obviously our interpretatio might not agree with yours; if you think a rulebreaking comment is standing somewhere on the site, please flag us to it by e-mailing – TR

  • Jennifer Carrasco July 10, 2012 (1:32 pm)

    I hate the whole idea.

    • WSB July 10, 2012 (2:01 pm)

      Update from Bruce Butterfield at the Fauntleroy Community Association – not only will the Parks reps be at the meeting, so will the West Coast rep for Go Ape, Chris Swallow. 7 pm tonight, The Hall at Fauntleroy (9131 California SW), there’s street parking but also a lot on the west side of the building. – TR

  • DogMom July 10, 2012 (3:51 pm)

    I agree with Parkuser on this one. I use this park daily and have for years. I live a block up the hill and I should have a say as to how my tax dollars are spent and I should not have to put up with the city ruining my back yard. NIMBY and Proud! And thank you to Trileigh for pointing out the actual acreage issue. My boyfriend and I posted flyers at the park 2 weekends ago to try and show this exact issue.

  • Tracey July 10, 2012 (5:25 pm)

    Definitely opposed to it, for all of the mentioned reasons and a dozen more. Parking would be even worse on Sundays when people can park on the West side of Fauntleroy, which most days is reserved for the ferry lane, but Sunday is the exception. That reminds me..Do these ZipGo people even know about the ferry traffic/congestion there (on top of the park and regular resident traffic)? Actually, they are probably viewing the ferry traffic as an assett and expecting the ferry riders to be patrons of this stupid thing.

  • Tracey July 10, 2012 (6:09 pm)

    I just noticed and wanted to add before it is too late…that the Hall at Fauntleroy is actually 9131 California Ave SW. It is the small portion of California that is diagonal from the Fauntleroy YMCA, in between Fauntlee Hills and Endolyne.

  • James July 10, 2012 (6:10 pm)

    You know, the city needs the revenue. Times are tight.
    The city could make a GD killing turning the park into an off-road vehicle race track. Maybe even adding a bar? Off road vehicles and alcohol in the park. The owners would magnanimously donate a certain number of “beers and buggy rides” per year as a good faith gesture. God bless commerce!
    Better yet, a strip joint. Yeah, a strip joint, tastefully combined with the zip line. Call it Nature Girls! That’s it. Decided!

    • WSB July 10, 2012 (6:23 pm)

      Sorry, Tracey – I checked and the comment is the only place I made that error – have mentioned it a zillion times elsewhere with the right street name. Have fixed here in case somehow someone’s checking comments pre-meeting. – TR

  • rats July 10, 2012 (6:41 pm)

    I hope public comments can strike down this proposal (unlike the proposed land action use meetings).

  • Tracey July 10, 2012 (10:02 pm)

    @wsb No worries. It was just something I noticed really quickly in the comment before I left work to head to the meeting. So, I figured I’d post the California address just in case.

  • Vicki Pardee July 12, 2012 (9:34 am)

    On tv yesterday, KOMO said the parks Dept has dropped any plans for the zip line in Lincoln Park. Congratulations to all the amazing organizers, presenters and community participation.

Sorry, comment time is over.