Soaring Adventures

Information highlighting interesting flora, fauna, geology, history and culture during the hikes can enhance the eco-tour-by-zip-line, and add value to the experience. While zipping, children 12 years of age and younger should be coupled with a guide behind them, attached by sling. Young children (8 to12 years old) do not have the weight or mental focus to travel the entire cable length, or operate the hand brake effectively. Thus, they can safely enjoy the ride by zipping in tandem with a guide. In many cases, the child gains enough confidence to zip solo as the tour proceeds and the cables get faster. Typically, insurance regulations prohibit children less than 8 years of age from zipping.

Maintenance Issues

Cables–The cables will stretch during the initial months of operation, and the individual strands will tighten. Periodic tightening to fine-tune the speed of travel (more sag makes for a slower ride) will be needed. After about 16,000 trips down the cable, the wear-and-tear of zipping starts to become evident and replacement is recommended. This wear is typically found on the top side of the cable. All connections must be checked for proper torque: bolts, anchor-guy wires, poles, platforms, foundations, railings, ramps and rope-braking mechanisms must be viewed and corrective actions taken.

Ground conditions–The area in proximity to the tour may affect the safety of participants as tree limbs and rocks can be hazardous. These areas must be routinely inspected.

Gear–All customer gear undergoes a thorough annual inspection–the date of manufacture of harnesses and lanyards is checked, and the out-of-date or damaged gear must be destroyed. Safety and rescue gear should be present for inspection as well. An inspection log for all customer and guide equipment should be completed every day the tour is operated and reviewed annually with records kept for at least seven years.

Emergency-preparedness evacuation plan–This must be coordinated with local authorities. A written operational plan will help zip-tour personnel fine-tune actions in the event of an emergency. Rescue equipment and a spare set of customer gear are carried on the tour by the lead guide with cellular telephones and hand-held, short-range radios included for communication between guides and base-station personnel. Many of the above described items will be addressed when state and local permits are submitted.

Annual inspections–ACCT-listed professional inspectors evaluate cable spans and cable wear as well as cable abuse and all connections in regards to proper torque. Bolts, anchor-guy wires, poles, platforms, foundations, railings, ramps and rope-braking mechanisms are viewed and corrective actions recommended during this process. Other areas and issues included in the inspection process are addressed above.

Zip lines are arriving at park and recreation areas, so plan for them as well as for the mass number of visitors who will be experiencing the whine of the trolley zipping down the cable while enjoying an adventure activity and making memories of a lifetime.

Monty Holmes is a graduate of Florida State University and a lifelong “student” of environmental preservation and world travel. He made a life for himself in construction and property development while pursuing other ventures, including Web-site development, public-health education, and eco-tourism ventures. He can be reached via e-mail at monty@salida.com.

Rita Washko is a board-certified Internist, a public-health scientist and a trained writer who shares an interest in habitat preservation and cultural exploration with her husband, Monty Holmes.

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