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Zip Lining Comes to Illinois

5/11/2016, 1:58 a.m. | Updated on 5/11/2016, 1:58 a.m.
The Forest Preserves of Cook County wants residents and visitors to Go Ape this summer. Go Ape Treetop Adventure Course, ...
Zip lining tours have become very popular in the forests and jungles of Florida, Puerto Vallarta and Costa Rica and now they are coming to Illinois. A new course opening will be offered in the Bemis Woods this summer, located at 1100 West Ogden, in Westchester, just 15 miles west of the Chicago Loop. Photo Courtesy of Go Ape Treetop Adventure Company.

By Monique Smith

The Forest Preserves of Cook County wants residents and visitors to Go Ape this summer. Go Ape Treetop Adventure Course, an outdoor adventure company originating in the United Kingdom, the nation’s premier treetop adventure company, is bringing zip lining to Bemis Woods, located at 1100 West Ogden, in Westchester, just 15 miles west of the Chicago Loop. Go Ape submitted a proposal and entered into a partnership agreement with The Forest Preserves of Cook County.

The new course opening in the Bemis Woods this summer will be their 15th course in the United States. “We’re thrilled to have this partnership be our first in Illinois”, says Go Ape Managing Director Dan D’Agostino. “We hope to get all Chicagoans up in

our trees.” Arnold Randall, General Superintendent of the Forest Preserves of Cook County who is very supportive of this partnership says, “The Forest Preserves along with Go Ape are excited to offer the first ever zip line and tree top adventure course in Cook County. Many people enjoy the preserves through outdoor activities like boating, biking, fishing, as well as camping which we launched in 2015. Zip lines are yet another offering that can connect people to the outdoors.”

For burgeoning adventure seekers who want to know what zip lining is, it’s an aerial rope slide. If you have a fear of heights then this particular activity may not be for you. Depending on the course you can be as high as 750 feet in the air before ascending down. In most cases, you’ll have to walk up a mountain or climb stairs to the highest point above the trees, stand on a platform and be placed in a gravity utility harness. The zip line consists of a pulley suspended on a cable made of stainless steel; it’s designed to enable a user propelled by gravity to travel from the top to the bottom of the incline cable.

Zip lining tours have become very popular in the forests and jungles of Florida, Puerto Vallarta and Costa Rica. All adventurers will be required to sign a waiver in order to participate. Roy Walker a resident of Cook County and experienced zip liner is thrilled about the adventure tour opening this summer, “I’m excited about this being available so close to home here in Illinois.” He does suggest that new thrill seekers research the course because every zip lining experience is different and those landings can be tough to land even causing injury if you’re not cautious.

The course being constructed at Bemis Woods will be a seven –acre, two-to-three hour trek through the forest canopy using rope ladders, Tarzan swings, five zip lines, and more than 40 other obstacles. These challenges and obstacles are created for a variety of skill levels. The purpose is to encourage the entire family to come out and participate. With the budget crisis continuing to play out downstate, Cook County residents may be curious to know who is footing the bill for this latest attraction? This will not be a burden on the backs of taxpayers. Go Ape came to the table with a 100% capital investment and an agreement to make property improvements. In addition, Go Ape will build and operate the course, share a portion of the revenues from ticket sales with the forest preserves and assume the responsibility or liability for any issues or accidents that may occur on the adventure course.

The push for more residents and visitors to use the county’s parks and reserves has been heavily on the agenda of The Forest Preserves officials. Since the time of the Forest Preserves centennial celebration in 2015, the organization has been diligently looking for ways to attract and engage more Cook County residents. The Go Ape zip lining course is just the latest in their efforts. They’ve made other improvements including the opening of five new and revitalized campgrounds, expanding trails and launching bike rental kiosks. “One of the goals of the Forest Preserves is to increase visitors to the preserves, and to showcase the many outdoor recreation opportunities close to home,” said Randall.

The Cook County Forest Preserves is one of the largest preserves in the nation with nearly 70,000 acres of open land. They offer education programming and facilities where people can cross-country ski, picnic, golf, canoe and much more. For more information on how you and your family can utilize the preserves for your summer adventures (or winter), visit www.fpdcc.com.