By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: May 18, 2019 | 12:30 p.m.
Developers want to open ahead of schools closing in June
PRINCE GEORGE – The county’s newest attraction is quickly approaching its first day of business as developers say they’re targeting an opening date of as early as late May or as late as the middle part of June.
In an interview last week, Tree Time Adventures owner and operator John Bogue gave an update on how the project is progressing after work on the park began in April as heavy equipment and crews started working at Scott Memorial Park where dozens of acres of land has been leased to Bogue for the development of the outdoor adventure park in late 2018.
“The bulk of the tree-top adventure is done,” Bogue revealed. “We are shooting for the end of May, in just a few weeks. It is questionable whether we will reach that deadline as a few things have to fall into place to do that but, at the very latest, the second week of June. Our mission is to be open by the time the kids get out of school.”
He remarked, “If you look at it, you may say it doesn’t look like its 80 percent complete but, once we start hanging elements, then things change quickly.”
The primary feature of the new adventure park will be its “tree-top adventures,” 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.
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.
According to developers, much of the tree-top experiences are constructed as work on the access road and parking area continues.
Last week, Bogue said other elements, like the roadway and parking area, which they are required to build to VDOT road standards per their agreement with the county, along with an administration building are also continuing to progress well. He noted the weather, which has been a mix of clear skies and springtime storms, has affected construction and development during the project.
“It plays a big role,” he remarked. “It slowed us down a bit but, when it comes to the road construction, we do want a little bit of rain because we burning things so that would cut down the risk of having that burn get out of control.”
When the park opens later this year, possibly as soon as later this month via a soft opening before a celebratory grand opening at a later date, Bogue said his park would stand out from other similar experiences in the region through its offerings and, most importantly, their dedication to safety.
“Tree-top adventures are fairly new to the United States as these were things that were happening in Europe for 20 years, but this is certainly a young industry in America,” the owner/operator detailed before walking through their rationale for using the European example for their operating plan.
“We are using more of a European model because it is a more mature model,” Bogue detailed. “Some of the things we are doing are safer. We talk about belay – the way we attach to the cabling system of the park. Most of our competitors out there use a system where they have carabiners where they click in and out and, as you move from one element to another, you actually have to unhook and re-attach your belay system in order to keep yourself safe.”
He continued, “If you do that in the right steps, it is safe. Unfortunately, it can get confusing and often times we find that using some of the older methods, especially with younger people, they find themselves in the trees and they are not tied in,” explaining Tree Time Adventures would utilize a “continuous belay” system and a five-point harness system, as opposed to the three-point harness system used by some facilities, which utilize the waist and legs.
Once you are hooked into our system, there is no way for you to get out of it until you reach the end or until we physically come up and release you from the system,” Bogue said. “Although the three-point harness is pretty safe, the risk there, if for some reason you were to get inverted, there can be some risks involved with having only three points of contact.”
“We have five children of our own so our children will play and probably be working in the park in the future so obviously, we are not going to expose your family to anything we wouldn’t expose our own family to,” Bogue said.
Lesly and John Bogue talk with Prince George Supervisor Marlene Waymack at a regional tourism event last week in Dinwiddie County. (Michael Campbell)
In terms of attractions, he said, while not naming specific competitors in the region, Tree Time Adventures will feature three tree-top trails, seven zip lines, and a standalone zip line “that runs through the valley of Scott Memorial Park,” which is more than “one of the nicer parks in the area,” the developer remarked.
Along with the tree-based adventures, as part of their plans and laid out in their lease with Prince George County is the implementation of various free trails and other amenities around the paid experience of the tree-based experiences at the park. When asked, Bogue said those were coming along well and he expects them to become more robust as time passes.
“We anticipate that there are going to be miles and miles of trails so those things will develop over time, probably years, but we have some nice trails in the making,” he said. “It is coming along nicely.”
As Bogue and crews progress closer to completion of the park, he said their goal was to not just create an attraction, but a “premier attraction” for Prince George County and the region, a desire seen in action as the park engaged with local communities, government leaders, and business representatives during a regional tourism luncheon in Dinwiddie County.
“We are excited to be part of the community because we live here and we want it to grow and expand. We can’t wait to bring some excitement and some exercise to your families,” Bogue closed.