SOUTH BEND — Climbing trees is now a marketable skill in South Bend, where there’s a golden opportunity to get a career as an “aerial guide” off the ground.
“We anticipate hiring in about 20 to 25 individuals. We’ll have a park manager and we’ll have what we call aerial guides, so people that are out here to assist and help with folks that are climbing,” said Steve Doniger, with Rum Village Adventure Park.
Doniger’s private company is building a treetop attraction in a public park. It’ll be open to anyone seven years or older as long as they weigh at least 40 pounds. While no one is too old to climb, the maximum weight has been set at 275 pounds.
Dozens of wooden platforms are being built on trees at Rum Village Park. At first glance they look like those stands used for hunting, but in reality, they are public passports to aerial adventure.
“It’s different trails, but it’s trails up in the air,” said Doniger. “So you’re going anywhere from 20 feet up in the air all the way through 60 feet up in the air. It’s a series of different obstacles that will challenge you.”
The obstacles link one platform to the next. Judging from pictures of the company’s completed facility in Hamilton County, those obstacles include rope bridges, tightropes, cargo netting and zip lines.
“You don’t see things like this in communities our size,” boasted South Bend Parks Director Aaron Perri. “This is our nature park and this is a chance to experience nature in a different way.”
Speaking of nature, great care was taken to make sure that no trees were harmed in the making of the park. “The way that we design we build around the trees, it’s a compression build type of setup , we never drill through a tree, we take great care in what limbs we’re cutting and what we have to do to keep the tree nice and healthy,” said Doniger.
The targeted grand opening is August 20. The facility will likely start by operating seven days a week, whittling down to weekends and holidays with the 2016 season likely to wrap sometime in November.
“If you’re a little bit anxious about maybe getting up into the trees, not a problem. We have staff out here to assist you. You’re in a full body harness, you’re in a helmut,” Doniger explained. “We’re going to get a chance to see birds and we see the leaves changing we’re going to get a chance to test our adventure side.”
Rates at Rum Villege Aerial Adventure Park will start at $44 for kids 13 and under, and $49 for adults. The typical visit will last between two and three hours. “It’s a great team building exercise, it’s a great corporate opportunity, youth group times, camps, those type of things.”
Reservations are now being taken. For more information, visit the Edge Adventures website at edgeadventureparks.com.