Opposed Treetop Course Moves from Wildwood to Creve Coeur Park
Go Ape!, an out-of-state treetop adventure course company, now wants to build an area course in Creve Coeur Park instead of the original targeted locale, Greensfelder Park in Wildwood. A request was on the St. Louis County Council agenda Tuesday night.
The change in county venue follows a torrid storm of opposition to the treetop course in Wildwood, many of whom as equestrians frequently use and board horses at Greensfelder. Other residents opposed allowing county-owned lands to be used by private enterprises for profit. Yet another group pointed out safety concerns regarding increased traffic to and from the proposed remote location on already busy, curvy roadways.
In fact, some Wildwood residents spearheaded an online petition to indicate their concerns and opposition to the zipline/treetop course project.
Go Ape! co-owner Chris Swallow confirmed with Patch on Monday he and St. Louis County Parks staffers currently were seeking approval to operate a treetop adventure course in Creve Coeur Park. Go Ape! oversees treetop courses in Maryland, Virginia and Indiana, and actually spawned from courses in Great Britain. Treetop parks basically consist of an obstacle course of ropes, ziplines, swinging bridges and platforms built around trees.
"We are excited about the opportunity, and looking forward to providing a fun, new recreational opportunity to the St. Louis community," said Swallow, who is based in Maryland.
Read previous articles for background:
St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley was slated to recommend legislation on Tuesday night at the St. Louis County Council meeting to authorize the county to enter into a lease agreement with Go Ape, Inc., for a portion of Creve Coeur Park and use of the brick building at corporate picnic site No. 1 inside the park.
County Council District 2 councilmember Kathy Burkett, who represents Creve Coeur, told Patch so far two constituents had some questions about the treetop park project. She said their questions were answered by county parks' staffers. "And, yes, I do support the project," she said.
According to St. Louis county records, the lease term would be for 15 years, with an option to renew for an additional five-year period. The leased area would include a seven-acre tract of land and the picnic site building, with the compensation rate to be a percentage of gross revenue and at no less than 3 percent. This agreement appears to be the same one that was contemplated for Greensfelder Park.
Tom Ott, St. Louis County acting director of the Department of Parks and Recreation, continues to recommend the new treetop obstacle project, indicating it could add up to $100,000 to the county park budget each year going forward once it's in full capacity. He said the county's revenue from the first season may only be $45,000 to $65,000, given that it will get a late start this year, if approved.
Wildwood resident Sarah Zenisek tells Patch she is relieved Go Ape! decided to leave Greensfelder as a true nature park.
"Creve Coeur Park is a very urban park where people are used to going and running paved paths, and paying to ice skate or row on the lake. I am concerned if the residents around the park were approached and their input taken, or if they (Go Ape and St. Louis County Parks and Recreation) are pushing this through again in a suspicious manner," she said.
She said people who own homes around Creve Coeur Park already probably will be more open to the Go Ape! proposal there, due to the more urban culture there, in general.
"I still feel like private enterprise in a public park is wading in dangeruos waters, but if the Parks Department feels they need help from Go Ape!, who does have a reputation for having success with zipline businesses worldwide, to make this endeavor more successful than the high ropes course that was in Greensfelder, that I can understand," she said.
"I continue to believe that Go Ape! is taking advantage of our county parks, and I continue to question the legitimacy of this deal and that the negotiation of this deal is heavily one-sided on who will profit most from this endeavor. I hope the Parks Department will remain in complete control of the land and the park."
Spanning 2,114 acres, Creve Coeur Park is one the county's most used locations with a lake, trails, athletic facilities and picnic areas.