By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: April 25, 2019 | 12:30 p.m.
PRINCE GEORGE – As the weather turns more favorable for construction and development activities, developers of the county’s newest outdoor attraction have gotten to work bringing their tree-based adventure park to fruition.
Prince George County officials confirmed last week that developers of Tree Time Adventures have begun construction of their new adventure park inside the grounds of New Scott Park, roughly four months after the county and the park’s operators came to terms on a contract that would allow the park to use county-owned land in New Scott Park that had been previously identified as not being suitable for development of sport fields as part of a lease agreement with Prince George.
Throughout 2018, park owner and operator John Bogue detailed what Tree Time Adventures would look like upon completion, noting it would feature a “tree-top adventure,” which would consist of an adventure that would include an obstacle course that moves within the trees, along with a variety of other activities, such as tightropes, jungle bridges, crab walks, “Tarzan ropes,” and zip lines.
While the tree-top adventure would be geared more toward teens and adults, Tree Time Adventures would also see experience for younger patrons through their “Junior Adventure.” In that, Bogue said it would be similar to the tree-top experience but would be closer to the ground and less challenging.
Source: Prince George County
The final element of Tree Time Adventures would be ground-based as the outdoor park would utilize the earth and soil around the trees to create a number of ground courses. Those courses would be, according to Bogue, military-style fitness trails that would be prime opportunities for special events, such as family fun runs, charity runs, and other outdoor events.
Based on Bogue’s plans for Tree Time Adventures and the way agreement between the park’s developers and the county is structured, the aerial, tree-based experiences would be concentrated within a 30-acre footprint of the over 100 acres that would be developed through the adventure park’s creation. Tree Time Adventures would be able to develop beyond that 30-acre footprint to create various trails and experiences that the community can partake in without having to pay admission to Tree Time Adventures.
According to a copy of the lease, along with the paid admission Tree Time Adventures area, the remaining acreage would feature “nature and fitness trails (free admission), disc golf (free admission/disc rental or sale by [Tree Time Adventures],” and “other business ventures that align with the outdoor environment.” The agreement also states those trails and disc golf options are to remain “admission free except when special events and/or tournament play has been scheduled.” This concession within the agreement may serve to address some concerns from residents brought forward during the early stages of Tree Time Adventures’ proposal to the county who asked that trails and other features be added to the park, noting there are few options for free trail walking and biking in the county.
The agreement further states, “Reasonable public use of the 100 acres outside of the initial TTA 30-acre project being developed shall be allowed so as long as such use does not conflict with business activities.”
As part of the agreement, the county will receive a percentage of gross receipts from the facility and Tree Time Adventures will be required to build an outbuilding, access road and parking lot that will serve the facility, along with a number of other terms prescribed in their agreement.
In addition, within the first year, Tree Time Adventures must, at their own expense, build an “all-weather access road to VDOT standards equivalent to or better than the existing access road to Scott Park,” a new parking area, and “an administrative structure at the entrance to the adventure activities.”
While free leisure activity options were brought up during the discussions about the adventure park, so too were concerns about the impact the park would have on Branchester Lakes, the subdivision that rests right next to New Scott Park, where Tree Time Adventures will be operating. Over the course of 2018, all the way up until supervisors eventually approved the lease agreement between the county and the park’s developers, residents from the subdivision voiced their opposition to the park, citing concerns about safety, the potential noise impacts, the park’s hours, the effect the park would have on property values and the risk of undesirable individuals, such as “pedophiles” roaming through their community following the park and trail development.
In response, adjustments were been made to the site, such as increasing the buffer of the aerial experiences to 300 feet from the end of residential property lines and researching the possibility of running the attraction parallel to the community to further reduce impacts.
Following the approval in late 2018, Bogue said his focus is to be as responsible and respectful of the entire community of Prince George, and those living near the attraction.
“We are certainly interested in being the best possible neighbor,” Bogue said in an interview, adding, “We want to bring good, wholesome activities to the county.”
He noted while the agreement allows the park to operate between dawn to dusk, which was a specific point of contention Branchester Lakes residents had with the then-proposed, now-adopted agreement, Bogue said the park would likely open late morning and close in the evening depending on the season as it does get darker sooner in the fall months.
Another aspect of the agreement that saw adjustments was the request for unrestricted access to the park by Bogue and his staff. In prior work sessions before the agreement’s approval, county leaders expressed concern with carving out that level of access within the agreement even though Bogue is leasing the property.
During the discussions leading up to the eventual approval of the lease, County Attorney Steven Micas explained the agreement allows for reasonable access to the leased property as determined by the county, noting that giving Bogue and his company unrestricted access to the property creates legal issues in the areas of liability and access.
“Allowing 24-hour access to a public park creates a concern for us,” Micas said during a work session. “I am not aware of a situation where any locality has granted unlimited 24-7 access to a public park. It’s unheard of.”
Though Bogue said this language doesn’t create too many issues for them, he did say it was unusual in his opinion.
“It’s not a huge concern, but I will say it is highly unusual to lease a property and have restricted access when you have legal possession of it, so that was my primary concern,” has said in prior work sessions that not carving out unrestricted access in the agreement could leave the door open for a future seated board to “shut down Tree Time” by using the language to lock the gates and effectively end their operations.
“I think the leaders here are definitely a forward-thinking group of individuals and I don’t anticipate any speed bumps here,” Bogue said.
As the park now enters development, Bogue told the media previously that the goal of the park is to draw people locally and from across the region to the facility to enjoy the natural beauty of Prince George County.
“This park is designed to serve the community,” he said. “We want to hear from the community,” adding that this park could have regional and statewide appeal.
“In this industry, it is not uncommon for people to travel 80 to 100 miles to experience different parks,” he said. “Our approach is a bit different than other tree-top adventure parks. Where others typically only offer that experience, we want to incorporate more thing than that. We like the idea of having [Spartan Run]-type events, perhaps putting in some outdoor exercise equipment, and we have some other ideas for stuff that is not pay-for-play, such as disc golf.”