County 'Goes Ape' to Help Save Greensfelder Park in Wildwood
VIDEO: St. Louis County Parks and Recreation managers seek new sources of revenue to help make county parks more self-sustaining. One favorite spot in Wildwood is targeted to get a high-ropes course. Meeting is Nov. 17.
Greensfelder Park in Wildwood is slated to have a new outdoor adventure course by this coming spring, if current plans for a high-ropes treetop park get approved by St. Louis County Council members. Mistakenly first deemed "a zip line" business, some residents are expressing concern about the new endeavor's impact on trees, Greensfelder's current trails and equestrian offerings, as well as the overall natural ambiance of the 1,736-acre park. A second, informational meeting is being hosted by county representatives at the park this Saturday so anyone interested can see the plans firsthand.
Saturday's meeting will be held from 8:30 a.m.–10:15 a.m. at Greensfelder's Learning Center at the corner of Henken and Allenton Roads, 4515 Hencken Rd.
In July, county Parks Department managers presented a business plan for the upcoming year, which included a $500,000 shortfall for 2013—a plan, however, that Tom Ott, acting director of St. Louis County’s Department of Parks and Recreation, said is in line with the county’s five-strategies approach to bring in revenue.
Anne Klein, St. Louis County director of sustainability and assistant director of parks, told Patch many people don't realize a high-ropes course was present at Greensfelder Park during the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s.
Klein said the company that would construct and manage the high-ropes course is called Go Ape! She said the company started in the United Kingdom, and now has two business owners for U.S. course execution—one resides in Virginia and the other in Maryland.
Go Ape! operates three other treetop courses in the United States—all in public parks:
- Eagle Creek Park, 5901 Delong Road, Indianapolis, IN
- Freedom Park, 5537 Centerville Road, Williamsburg, VA
- Rock Creek Regional Park, 6129 Needwood Lake Drive, Rockville, MD
How Will Wildwood's Environment Be Protected?
Greensfelder Park features horse boarding, equestrian and group camping, shaded trails, hayrides, a nature learning center, picnic sites and shelters, a playground, a trim orienteering course and an Alpine tower.
Klein said the treetop course would not be attached to trees, per se. "This company builds platforms around the trees that enable them to continue growing and flourishing."
She said an independent arborist would be brought in annually to assess the health of trees.
"Some of the trees would have to be trimmed, but they will be consulting with county experts before doing it," said Klein. "And the only trees that would be felled are unhealthy ones."
Adventure Course Details:
Klein said the footprint on the ground of the adventure course would be less than 1 acre, and that from an above-ground sense, it may span 7 to 10 acres.
"It would not take any big equipment to install; in fact, they have an aerial team from France to build it," she said.
Participants would climb up ropes to complete various types of obstacles, then "zip" to the next set of challenges. The overall fitness experience lasts 2 to 3 hours.
Adults (18 years and older) would cost $55 each. Youths (10 to 17 years) would cost $35 each.
Klein said the course is expected to generate $45,000 to $60,000 during the first year, and $100,000-plus during its second year. But she said the county would get "only a portion" of revenue generated.
On the other hand, she said there is no cost investment for the county either. "This new business venture would be run as a lease agreement, just like the Greensfelder stable is done."
Swinging Forward With A Treetop Course
"Some residents were concerned because they didn't understand what it is and isn't," said Klein.
Once people see the course basically would be going into an existing ravine, they realize it should not be as invasive as imagined, she said.
"We think it will be a great opportunity to have a new recreational activity, and a revenue source," said Klein. "We hope more people at Saturday's meeting can see it is not about changing or damaging the park. It's about providing a benefit and bringing other uses to the park."
Klein said county parks typically received $1 million from the general revenue budget in the past. "In 2013, we are not scheduled to receive any general revenue funding. Due to how we've made budget cuts and created some new revenue, we think we can make it through next year. But the year 2014 is making us really worried about how to come up with $3.5 million operating funds."