UNF ropes course gets the green light for March opening

Spinnaker

The nature trail leads the way to a soon-to-be constructed ropes course, opening in March.

 

By: Katie Gile, Staff Writer

 

Hiding within the thick woods of UNF’s nature trails, a project nearly five years in the making is due to break ground.

After it passed the vote at an emergency Senate meeting Nov. 30, the ropes course is expected to be ready for business by the end of March, said Ayolane Halusky, chief ranger for the UNF Wildlife Sanctuary. Its construction is due to begin in February, he said.

“Even with the one or two opposing votes, it passed pretty strongly, and that gave UNF Recreation the ability to start working on the project since funds are available,” said Student Government President Matt Brockelman.

The course has been in the works since April 2007, when Alpine Towers representatives came to UNF for a free site visit. Alpine Towers, a company that specializes in challenge course design, is the designer for UNF’s own Odyssey III ropes course.

“We’d been trying to get a ropes course and to get people interested,” Halusky said, “but there was never one built. The Parents’ Association donated money for a low-ropes element, but that money has not been spent yet.”

Joe Lackey, owner of Alpine Towers, was one of the representatives who performed the 2007 site visit. Lackey said the time span between the 2007 visit and the passage of the request is an entirely normal part of creating a course on a college campus.

“It can take a very long time until you’re there, doing the project,” Lackey said. “The interest is there, but all the ingredients have to be right. That means having a location that everybody’s agreeable to, the interest, the management, etc. I think in 2007, more of those ingredients were not quite ready.”

One difficulty was selecting a location that would not disrupt students seeking the quiet of the nature trails, Lackey said.

Halusky made concern for students a priority during discussions of the course.

“We want to keep the reserve as much of a sanctuary as possible,” he said. “We want to make sure people can still walk to the island and have quiet moments in nature.”

Some changes were made to the original design before its passage, including a focus on minimizing environmental impact, Lackey said.

“We’re working within the sanctuary, so we’re coming at this with a very soft footprint attitude,” he said. “We are going to have to remove some trees and bushes, but the style of the course is very green, I think.”

The course will feature both high and low elements, two ziplines and unique allowances for disabled individuals.

“We want it to be highly accessible, highly universal,” Lackey said. “This is not rocket science, but we’re making choices in design and some peripheral items of the structure. We want someone who’s in a wheelchair, who has motor difficulties or who’s blind to be able to use the course.”

The ropes course will create about eight open positions for student employment, Halusky said.

Halusky, who has been certified by Alpine Towers, will train the student employees to help their fellow students through the courses.

“It takes a certain kind of person to be a facilitator,” Halusky said. “You want someone who won’t just get you through it but will teach you as you go.”

Lackey said the combination of mental and physical lessons learned on the course makes it an invaluable experience for everyone involved.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re the captain of the football team or the computer nerd, everyone is the same on these courses,” Lackey said. “It’s common ground.”

 

 

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