Visitors could get bird's-eye view of Wake's Blue Jay Point park

mquillin@newsobserver.comMarch 18, 2013 

 

RALEIGH

— Things may be looking up at Blue Jay Point County Park on Falls Lake – about 40 feet up, where an outdoor recreation company wants to build a tree-top adventure course.

Paying patrons would ascend into the canopy of pines and hardwoods using harnesses and rope ladders. Then, on zip lines and rope swings, they would spend two to three hours flying between platforms and obstacles.

“It sounds like fun,” County Commissioner Betty Lou Ward said Monday, when the board of commissioners was asked to let the proposal move to the next step.

The board voted unanimously to develop an agreement between the county, which sub-leases the land for the park, the state, which holds the primary lease, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which owns it.

If all the entities can agree, Adventure Forest LLC co-owners Dan and Jenny D’Agostino said they could build their newest Go Ape course in about six weeks. But county parks and open space director Chris Snow said it could take months to get state and federal approval, so it may be next summer before a course is in place.

Adventure Forest first approached the county about building one of its courses in Wake in early 2011. Snow said county staff determined that Blue Jay Point would be the best fit for the project.

Adventure Forest has 28 of the courses in the United Kingdom, and Dan and Jenny D’Agostino of Rockville, Md., brought the concept to the United States. They have three course in operation: in Rockville, Williamsburg, Va., and Indianapolis, Ind.

“We’re very interested in coming here to Wake County,” Dan D’Agostino said Monday, in part because residents here tend to be active and engaged in outdoor activities. He also said the county government is known for its willingness to develop public-private partnerships.

Several county commissioners had questions about how the arrangement would work, including liability issues and whether the project represents a major shift from the county’s reliance on passive recreation in its parks rather than developing them for specific activities.

As a vendor, the company would bear the liability, county staff said. D’Agostino said that since he and his wife opened their first course in 2002, they have had no serious injuries among more than 3 million visitors.

The course would occupy 5 to 10 acres of the 234-acre park in the northern part of the county. Arborists would check the health of all the trees to be included in the course, D’Agostino said.

At the company’s existing courses, patrons include Scout groups, church youth groups, school and recreation programs, individuals and families. The course probably would cost about $35 for children, about $50 for adults. As plans firm up, a contract will spell out what percentage of ticket prices the company will pay to the county for use of the park.

Other Wake County parks have agreements with private vendors, such as Harris Lake, where visitors can rent paddle boards.

Snow said the course would allow visitors to “see Blue Jay Point from a totally different perspective.”

Quillin: 919-829-8989

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