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Treetop Adventure Course Considered for Wissahickon Park

The Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation is considering building a tree top obstacle course in Wissahickon Park.

Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department is considering building a Treetop Adventure Course in the Wissahickon Valley Park as a way to “educate youth about forest ecosystem and provide healthy outdoor recreation.”

Preliminary estimates put the annual income for such a course between $40,000-$50,000 annually based on what similar courses in other cities make.

The course would consist of a series of walks, zip lines and other apparatus through the tree canopy.

The construction of the course would be environmentally conscious, the Parks and Recreation Department says, and a new parking gravel parking lot would be built on the west side of Wigard Avenue near Henry Avenue adjacent to the course.

The Parks and Recreation Department estimates that the course could host around 150 participants in a day, with “sessions” that allow 14 to 15 people on the course at a time.

Parks and Recreation estimates that the course would take two to three hours to complete, and the average price for admission will range from $35-55.

The Parks and Recreation Department promises that the course will not be built over existing trails, and that it won’t create a precedent for more commercial activities at park locations.

The Parks and Recreation Department hopes to hold a town hall meeting with all the stakeholders at the end of March.

Kevin February 25, 2013 at 10:18 PM
...Courses in other cities generate approximately $40,000 to $50,000 in annual income. Revenues from the course will be reinvested in Wissahickon Valley Park. PP&R will work with park partners to determine how to best utilize the funds. What are the typical lease terms for this type of activity? Course operators typically make a capital investment of approximately $500,000 and therefore require a longer concession term that will enable them to recoup the investment. PP&R plans to offer a course operator an initial term of ten years, and, at the Cityís option, up to two five-year renewal terms.
Kevin February 25, 2013 at 10:27 PM
I just realized that the March 4th meeting may only be for city officials. My bad
Susan Kane February 26, 2013 at 12:56 AM
This is why a Fairmount Park Commission was established many, many years ago. This land was supposed to remain as a park, no commercial institutions and nothing built on it. However, when citizens of Philadelphia voted to merge FPC with Dept. of Rec., you had to know this would happen. It wasn't too long ago that the city tried to add an all terrain vehicle course near the Walnut Lane Golf Course. The Philadelphia Police Dept. can't even keep people out of Devil's Pool. It's a disgusting, litter ridden, dirty diaper thrown, graffiti marked, and illegally parked area that no one but the ones who ruin the area enjoy. This is a residential area that can't handle the amount of people that would draw in. Any idiot knows that the so called profits will not go back into the Wissahickon Park. There's a lot of things at the Schyulkill Nature Center to introduce the outdoors and natural areas to children.
Susan Kane February 26, 2013 at 01:04 AM
I couldn't believe they took away the Police assigned strictly to the park. All I see now are trucks driving on Kelly Drive and MLK Drive, cars parked on the grass, litter all over, and a lot of graffiti along Kelly Drive on the rock area on the east side, and at Glendining Rock Garden. I also see a lot of unauthorized vehicles driving along Forbidden Dr. People ask where are the police......well the Police in both the 14th and the 5th are so under-staffed it's pathetic. Maybe they should try to put a parking area in on the Chestnut Hill side, like on Springfield Ave. They know they will get too much opposition from those residential home owners so they're trying to shove it down our throats in the Roxborough/ Andorra Area. Maybe all the ATV riders can ride through the new tree top adventure park instead of doing wheelies and speeding on city streets. How ridiculous is this!!!!!! I'll be present at any meeting to shut this nonsense down!!!!
Michelle Havens February 26, 2013 at 11:51 AM
Kevin.... Where did you get the document you posted part of?
Josh Cohen February 26, 2013 at 02:43 PM
The March 4th meeting is just to talk to the equestrian community A larger meeting for the entire community has yet to be scheduled. It is important to note that Parks & Recreation will issue a request for proposal and manage a competitive selection process for a firm to construct and manage the course. The selection will be based on experience level and environmental sensitivity not simply the level of concession fee income.
Kevin February 26, 2013 at 03:08 PM
Michelle, it was attached to an email sent out by a civic assn coordinator. The email contained a thread between civic leaders that mentioned a meeting on Mach 4th at Cathedral Village, but it was unclear if it was open to everyone or only for city officials
Michelle Havens February 26, 2013 at 03:30 PM
Josh.... It's obvious that PARKS & RECREATION has had his in the works for some time. And I know for a fact that one of the as you call them firms to construct this type of concession is GO APE. I also know that as of late 2010 they were in the process of working with PPR to secure an area in Pennypack and that the community was against it. So obviously they have continued discussions with PPR. if PPR website says no concessions are available how do explain this? And what is Councilman Jones position on this attempt to build an amusement facilty in the park?
jmch February 26, 2013 at 03:39 PM
As usual the decision to do this has been made without ANY input from the community. The fact that we already have people speeding through the school zone, and addiitonal traffic will put students even more at risk is not an issue over the alnmighty dollar. The fact that the land back there is already used by Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, and Outward to teach about the environment was also not taken into account. As usual Councilman Jones is no where to be found unless his name can get in the paper or his fave in front of a TV camera. A petition will be started shortly to put a stop to this ridiculous notion.
Colin Dawson February 26, 2013 at 05:16 PM
Josh While the equestrian community is one of the park users, they are only a part of the park user community, Why is Parks and Rec not being more public about involving the larger park user community and adjacent communities. This would appear to be another case of management at Parks and Rec trying to do an end run.
Josh Cohen February 26, 2013 at 09:33 PM
Colin, P&R has met with the Friends of the Wissahickon, the Boys Scouts, Upper Roxborough Civic Association, Roxborough Conservancy, Saul High School, 21st Ward Athletic Association, Ridge Park Civic Association, Residents of Shawmont Valley as well as others. The equestrian meeting is just one of the small meetings. As i stated above, P&R will have a meeting open to anybody later in March at a time and location to be determined.
Colin Dawson February 26, 2013 at 10:50 PM
Josh Has the process for conversion of park land to other uses been conducted in compliance with Section 15-100 of the city code and charter. In particular is " the continuation of the original use of the land as outdoor park or recreation land is no longer practicable or possible and has ceased to serve the public interest " and will " the City receives or acquires land to substitute for the transferred or converted land (the "Substitute Land") on or before the transfer or conversion."
Roxygirl February 26, 2013 at 11:39 PM
Josh.... If PPR met with all these representatives when did these meetings occur and why has nothing been mention publicly to anyone until this story? No disrespect to those who were in the meeting, but 50 people acting as representatives do not the neighborhoods make. As a community member, Roxborough born and bred, and a participant in several organizations that would be affected by this, I have to ask," when these meetings took place were the representatives told not to mention these proposed plans. Because living in Roxborough my whole life I know people talk and rumors spread fast. And yet these plans seem to have come out of left field.
Colin Dawson February 27, 2013 at 07:54 PM
Josh Please post the proposed location, say on google maps with a boundary shown, so that we can all see the part of the Wissahickon that has ceased to serve the public interest.
Colin Dawson February 27, 2013 at 08:00 PM
If anyone is interested this is the section of the city charter regulating transffer or conversion of park land http://www.amlegal.com/nxt/gateway.dll/Pennsylvania/philadelphia_pa/thephiladelphiacode?f=templates$fn=default.htm$3.0$vid=amlegal:philadelphia_pa
Kristy March 02, 2013 at 11:58 PM
This has Leslie Knope written all over it! Awesome idea!
PhillyRes March 05, 2013 at 08:13 PM
This thread is crazy to me, I can't believe so many people are against this, don't get me wrong I think it needs to be implemented properly but if implemented properly I view this not only as a good money maker for the parks and rec people (though i'd consider 40-50k a drop in the bucket) I think the main thing I like about it is it will bring in tourists and people and get people out to the parks and something to do. Don't get me wrong I love a bike ride or walk through the trails back there but think it's great to have another way to explore the area. I have done a couple of these courses outside the area (spring mountain and camelbak) and while I agree the teaching people about conservation is a silly reasoning the courses were REALLY fun! It was great to get out with some friends and enjoy the great outdoors in another way and the view from these courses is usually pretty awesome, I can only imagine the perspective you will get over the trails. I also seeing this encouraging more people (whether you are for or against it) encouraging more people to return to the park and trails after doing the course to hike, run, bike, etc. I am absolutely for this!! I agree that management and implementation need to be carefully thought out and explored but the idea is great!
Concerned Roxborough Resident March 06, 2013 at 06:36 PM
Actually this story doesn't go far enough with what Parks & Rec is planning. As the article says other cities have done this, but what it doesnt say is that Parks &Rec is not really the one building it. The are planning to allow a private company to use the land, build the course and profit from it. Parks & Rec wouold only make $40,000-$50,000. One of the companies looking to bid on this has within the past 2 years also approached the Parks & Rec about putting it in Pennypack Park. The company (Go Ape, an offshoot of a British Company) has built several of these courses in other cities. They build the course using a French Construction Company, so local contractors won't be involved. In one of the cities they were even given a tax abatement, and it's not like it will bring in jobs. The only hire 2 fulltime and 7 part time. If you average out how much they make from these courses it's over $1,000,000. Put all this together and it's not a good enough reason. as far as the view of the trails, they make new paths under the course so they actually remove more then they add. and environmentally educating people? If this is the company working on this they simply post a couple plaques along the rope course. most of the people I've heard talking about this aren't neccessarily against the course, they just don't think it should be built there. It's too close to a school, a farm and an area where youth have actvities going year round.
Colin Dawson March 06, 2013 at 09:33 PM
There has been the usual lack of openness from Park and Rec over this proposed taking of Fairmount Park land for a commercial entertainment facility. Parks and Rec has not provided to the public a specific location apart from west side of Wigard Ave near Henry Ave. The section of Wigard Avenue between Henry Avenue and the Scout House is bounded on one side by Saul School pasture land, and on the other by woodland. The woodland between Wigard Ave and Wises Mill Road which may be the proposed location is part of the PWD storm water management area up stream from the new storm water infrastructure along Wises Mill Road. The areas both side of this section of Wigard Avenue have a use that is in the public interest, and as such the proposed location for conversion or transfer for commercial use does not comply with section 15-100 of the city charter.
Concerned Roxborough Resident March 07, 2013 at 02:25 AM
Colin, the proposed area is from the back of the Saul field back toward the direction of valley green. If you were to go back that way you would see port-a-potty and canoes. That's the section I heard they plan to use.
Michelle Lee March 14, 2013 at 08:32 PM
Just learned about a public meeting for this. Let's put this on our calendars: Wednesday, March 27 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in the auditorium of The Schuylkill Center
Long Time Resident & Park Owner & Lover March 15, 2013 at 08:14 PM
This is not something we want in our park! These belong in urban areas. How will you be able to study the outside of a tree while careening down a zipline or clamboring through the inside of a ladder tunnel?
Don and Susan Simon March 16, 2013 at 02:57 PM
The Wissahickon is supposed to be preserved, as much as possible, as a "natural" area. This is the largest natural area within a major US city and it belongs to the public. Putting a commercial enterprise in the Wissahickon is not appropriate. It will not teach "inner city children" to develop an understanding and respect for a natural area, it will only teach them the Wissahickon is an amusement park. In addition, it will require that 10-15 acres of the park will need to be fenced off. Ask yourself this question: What do you suppose the community's response would be if they wanted to put this in Mt. Airy (e.g. Carpenter's Woods) or Chestnut Hill (e.g. Harper's Meadow)?
Colin Dawson March 16, 2013 at 03:54 PM
Michelle I will be at the meeting. Wednesday, March 27 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in the auditorium of The Schuylkill Center
Martin Wynne March 17, 2013 at 02:56 PM
If you want to learn about the park, leave your car on Ridge Avenue and WALK down through the valley. When you reach the Wissahickon Creek, turn left or right and KEEP WALKING...it doesn't cost you a dime and the only impact is the footprints you leave behind. Thanks, Karen for bringing this matter to ligh.! I'll see you on the trails!
Carmen March 19, 2013 at 12:17 AM
Carmen One of the things that came up at the March 4 meeting was that this site had been previously proposed for developement as an environmental center. It was to have a 4 story glass and concrete modern building on the site. The same questions of parking, restrooms and loss of habitat as well as community opposition that could not be answered, led to the withdrawal of the proposal. The point is that putting in enough parking and constructing drainage or revamping the site to account for santitaion for 250 people per day would have a larger impact than just the 5-10 acres that would have to be enclosed behind the fence for the site. Developemnt in this area would effectively cut the entire west side of the Wissahickon Valley in half since the site is mid way of the stream and at the peak of the valley created by the Wissahickon. There have been other areas high on the side of the stream where parking lots have been paved and the run off has created erosion that has effectively closed trails. The trail that would be impacted is below the site and once it is compromised, it would be difficult to correct.
robinhood March 19, 2013 at 02:17 PM
what does not add up is only 15 people on the course at a time. If it takes three hours to complete the course, that means 15 people X 3 hours = 60 people at 12 hours. If you have a 150 people and only 15 on course at a time that comes to 450 hours. So as I see it they have to have 15 people up at every station to not just 15 on the course at a time. So if there are lets say 6 stations they could have 6x15= 90 people up at a time. Who's kidding who here?
Lin Morris March 27, 2013 at 01:46 PM
The area already has an educational "tree adventure" nearby at Morris Arboretum, called "Out on a Limb" Also in the area, PA Audubon Society and Outward Bound's planned nature center along the Water Dept's unused (and currently inaccessible to the public) reservoir. Why duplicate their efforts?
Denise April 12, 2013 at 05:18 PM
If you are opposed to having this project diminish our park, please support the newly formed "Alliance for Preservation of the Wissahickon" by visiting apowblog.org AND please 'LIKE' the FB page at "Save WIssahickon Park". It is the initial project of the group to stop the development of the zipline/treetop adventure course at Wigard and HEnry Ave. Thank you for being a part of the solution!
Diane Garvey April 24, 2013 at 09:03 PM
The Q&A from parks and rec said 15 people per half hour....I created a mathematical model and find that 49 parking places will be needed. So what are they going to do? take over the horse pasture, or send the overflow cars to the roxborough neighborhood.

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