GRAVENHURST — There are some details to be hammered out, but town staff has been directed to draft a lease and land-use agreement for Treetop Trekking to establish Gravenhurst’s newest tourist attraction.
‘We understand the project that much more; we feel it is quite a positive impact to the wharf environment ...’
Representatives from Treetop Trekking, an Ontario-based outdoor, forest adventure company, asked council to consider allowing them use of park property on Bay Street, directly adjacent to the sports fields, across from the Boston Pizza location at the wharf.
That initial request came back in early February with an eye for opening in early April. However, staff and council wanted some time to consider possible impacts the proposed tree-top zip lines and small games course may have to the park area, the large rock face that runs perpendicular to Bay Street that the zip line would follow, and to the tree coverage there.
Geoff Carleton, the town’s manager of public works and operations, reported to council April 3 that several meetings with the company have taken place since that eased any concerns. He recommended a draft lease be created for consideration at a future council meeting.
“We understand the project that much more; we feel it is quite a positive impact to the wharf environment there,” Carleton said. “The impacts to the physical environment are quite minimal while creating a destination place for the local residents and tourists to enjoy the beauty of the wharf.”
“The project will complement the many events and features while maintaining the natural area,” he added.
The draft lease will outline the term, which had been requested for five years to start with, the annual costs and responsibilities for the company to maintain the area.
If and when the draft is approved, construction of the zip line park would take about two weeks and would see a single zip line set up next to the rock face and among trees farthest from the roadway.
“We’ve been looking for something to add on to down at the wharf and I think this is going to be a tremendous addition,” said Deputy Mayor Jeff Watson.
Jamie Hesser, Treetop Trekking general manager, explained during her proposal to council that the site would offer about four tree-top zip line features, a fairly small course according to Hesser, and would be of a more beginner level to appeal to the broadest audience.
She said in creating the course, there is no damage done to the trees with the particular system they use and the site is first approved, then regularly inspected by a professional arbourist.
Hesser said the wharf course would be between 500 and 800 feet worth of features.
The goal for Treetop Trekking now is to have the lease in place and begin construction for a Victoria Day long weekend opening date.
Coun. Lola Bratty said she fully supports the concept, however, she did want assurance “that when something goes in, it not be esthetically dominant. It’s hidden in the trees and as long as you retain the sense of the trees and the rock, you’ll have support.”
Carleton explained that was a concern addressed in meetings with Treetop Trekking and the promise is that any features there will have minimal impact both to the environment and the view. He said the only really visible feature of the park will be the bottom support mast for the zip line, which will look very much like the flagpoles already there.
“The zip line would run parallel to the rock face, virtually invisible and the actual games themselves would be offset in the bush, so driving by or standing on the actual sports fields, it will be virtually hidden in the tree coverage,” Carleton said.
“It’s an excellent idea, it’s certainly going to be a big draw of people to the area,” added Coun. Bob Colhoun.
When a lease is in place and construction complete, Treetop Trekking will still need to have the site properly inspected and approved before opening, but as construction doesn’t take long, Hesser felt a May 24 weekend opening would be achievable.