Treetop adventure park in the works for South Lake Tahoe


By Kathryn Reed

Monkeying around is being encouraged.

“I went through a Go Ape course in England. We went through it twice because we liked it so much,” Sherry Miller, who runs Lake Tahoe Airport, said. “It’s a high-rope course. It’s a fantastic outdoor activity for everybody.”

Such a course, which includes ziplines, is expected to open at the South Lake Tahoe airport next year. The city’s Airport Commission approved the idea at its Nov. 3 meeting. The City Council is expected to approve the contract at its Nov. 15 meeting.

A treetop adventure park is expected to open at Lake Tahoe Airport in 2012. Photo/Go Ape

A treetop adventure park is expected to open at Lake Tahoe Airport in 2012. Photo/Go Ape

It’s essentially a high-wire forest adventure course.

“Our first interest is to create an opportunity for our guests to enjoy something unique, something that supports and symbolizes the natural environment here,” City Manager Tony O’Rourke told Lake Tahoe News.

Officials from the Maryland-based company were not available for comment late Thursday. While they were not at the meeting this week, representatives have been at previous Airport Commission meetings touting how they could transform several acres of the airport into an eco-adventure for locals and tourists.

The tentative 15-year agreement has Go Ape leasing 12 acres of the airport starting near the tower. (That would mark the south end of the course.) The contract start date would be Nov. 15 if council approves it. Rent would likely start being collected April 1, 2012, in the amount of $2,000 a month, going up based on the Consumer Price Index. The city will also be paid a part of the gross revenues, with the plan calling for 2 percent in year one and maxing out at 11 percent in year six.

Estimates are the city could make more than $100,000 a year off the adventure by the fifth year.

It would probably be open six to seven months, and not in the winter to begin with.

It takes six weeks to set up the course. They are considered semi-permanent, so they can be taken down if need be. Trees are protected so their growth is not stunted.

Platforms will be built into the trees. These launch pads are where people jump from or start their trek along wobbly ropes.

Miller was almost giddy describing the fun she has had on one of Go Ape’s courses in the U.K. Wearing a harness and strapped to a cable, people are not going to fall no matter how sweaty their palms get.

Four to six sections are in each course. It’s expected one course will be built in South Lake Tahoe. Each of Go Ape’s courses occupies 6 to 9 acres.

With the company limiting the number of people who can use the course at any given time, it’s not expected to add tremendously to traffic issues on Highway 50. At its other facilities, reservations are the norm.

Parking is not solidified. It will likely either be near the non-functioning control tower or in the main lot of the airport.

While Go Ape cannot fell any trees without the city’s permission, this area is slated to be thinned. Miller said the Go Ape officials will be notified which trees are likely to removed so as its design team creates the course, they know which trees will be standing when it comes time to build the apparatus.

The airport tower, which has not been used in years by the FAA, could become Go Ape’s offices and storage site.

The Federal Aviation Administration still has equipment there, so that would need to be removed. Plus, the FAA must sign off on the idea once the council gives its blessing.

“Typically the FAA doesn’t like park-type things on airport property, but this is land that cannot be used by aircraft,” Miller told Lake Tahoe News. “In our land use plans this is an approved use.”

Miller said Tahoe Regional Planning Agency staff has been part of discussions and is working with everyone to make this become a reality.

“We can’t wait until they get here. We’re fighting over who is the first one to go on course,” Miller said.


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Comments (13)
  1. Bob says - Posted: November 4, 2011

    Great idea! Welcome!

  2. Zipper says - Posted: November 4, 2011

    Sounds like a win-win for everyone. North Star has a similar set-up at the base of their mountain. I always wanted to try it, but I believe it was pretty expensive. Remember to implement a locals discount, please.
    What a great family vacation idea and a terrific place to build comraderie amongst co-workers, while bringing in much needed income to South Shore.
    Zipline here I come!

  3. Steve says - Posted: November 4, 2011

    How can they take over a federally funded airport control tower for private use?

  4. Lisa Huard says - Posted: November 4, 2011

    I love this plan. Thank you to people like Sue Pritchett who worked to develop the ropes courses we have had here in the past. We had wonderful access and would take staff and students from the school district alike through it for team building and goal development. I realize you’re working a company, but I think it would be an advantage to also talk with Ms. Pritchett. Very excited about this prospect!

  5. I' m a prisoner caught in a cross fire says - Posted: November 4, 2011

    “Typically the FAA doesn’t like park-type things on airport property, but this is land that cannot be used by aircraft,”

    Airplanes don’t use it either so I guess cool, “Bring on the Tarzan’s!”


  6. Debbie says - Posted: November 4, 2011

    awesome! Please make it affordable and particularly people like us with large families

  7. nature bats last says - Posted: November 4, 2011

    finally a good use for the airport. Maybe now it wont cost taxpayers a fortune to run an airport that only a few benefit from.

  8. Perry R. Obray says - Posted: November 4, 2011

    Wonder how the local discount for Incline Village residents is doing for their ski resort. Maybe something to consider for city of SLT resident discounts.

  9. KnowBears says - Posted: November 4, 2011

    I remember when the airport was just a thin gash through the trees. Now it’s a monstrous wide, long eyesore. I assume that’s because there are larger planes going in and out. But do we really need larger planes using the SLT airport? Is there really a demand for that? I’d love to see the airport operation shrunk down to a sensible size, and forest restored at the edges to make it less prominent.

    As for this park, since they say use will be limited and trees won’t be harmed, I can see benefit in it, especially if it really does bring revenue to the community.

  10. Laura says - Posted: November 4, 2011

    Go for it, and yes, make it affordable.

  11. Tom Wendell says - Posted: November 5, 2011

    Wonderful idea and right in line with the need to provide low environmental impact outdoor recreation. Now if we can just build a bike path through that property to provide safer, non-motorized access to the City offices. An old road bed from Kyberz Ave. already exists there that could easily connect with the tower area. Kyberz connects with Melba which already has a bike lane so this would be an easy way to improve connectivity.

  12. LisaD. says - Posted: November 6, 2011

    Isn’t this what we were asking for a couple months back? Exciting, creative ways to use what we have up here to offer to locals and tourists alike? I want to thank everyone involved through conception to opening day!!! Way to Go!!

  13. dumbfounded says - Posted: May 16, 2012

    I would like to correct one small misstatement. The FAA control tower is still in use, just not as a control tower. There is a significant amount of equipment that is operated by the FAA located in the tower building. The FAA has no motivation to allow someone else to use the tower.

    This is a great idea but will require a trailer or other office space. Hope it works out.