By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: August 1, 2019 | 1:45 p.m.
Adventure park finds home in Prince George’s Scott Park
PRINCE GEORGE – Just over a year and a half after Dinwiddie leaders declined a proposal that would’ve seen an outdoor nature-based adventure park set up shop in the county, that park has officially opened its doors to visitors in neighboring Prince George County.
Tree Time Adventures is the region’s new tree-based adventure and fitness attraction located within the thick tree canopy of Prince George County’s Scott Memorial Park, the first tree-based park of its kind in Southside Virginia, offering visitors the ability to traverse through courses built within the tree system of the park’s forestry, hence the name Tree Time Adventures.
In addition, elements such as tightropes, jungle bridges, crab walks, and zip lines will be part of the roughly 30-acre footprint the tree-top adventure will rest on within the over 100 acres of property leased by Bogue.
Tree Time Adventures will also showcase a “Junior Adventure,” which is similar to the primary tree-top experience, except it is closer to the ground and a bit less challenging, aimed at younger park patrons. The final element of Tree Time Adventures is ground-based as the outdoor park utilizes the earth and soil around the trees to create a number of ground courses and trails for people to enjoy without charge.
This week, while still relatively warm considering the time of year, is a bit more comfortable than when Tree Time opened earlier this month under temperatures nearing the century mark, which resulted in a string of excessive heat warnings that caused the park to close for a pair of days as heat indices surpassed 100 degrees. Even though the opening week saw weather-related closures, park operator John Bogue said he was excited to see his park open to the community and region.
“It is extremely exciting … it is hard to put into words,” Bogue shared. “It is a little like I am daydreaming. Yes, our doors are finally open but our story continues because I am so excited about the other offerings that are forthcoming and I am anxious to get some things happening out here that fit all levels of fitness.”
Bogue is currently leasing over 100 acres of undeveloped land in Scott Park but, only roughly 30 acres of that land is dedicated specifically to the tree-top experience with the remaining acreage expected to be developed into various trails, with a number of those trails having either been completed or are in the process of being developed.
“We have a quarter-mile, half-mile, and I just started construction on a one-mile trail,” he detailed. “Our goal is to hit the three-mile mark by the Spring of 2020. When we hit the three-mile mark, then we intend to put in the ground obstacles, things like walls to climb over, tires to run through, things to swing across, so that is going to be exciting as well.
In addition, he said he is in the process of developing what he calls “Tree Time Village,” which would an experience suitable for children aged two and older where they can they can experience a network of tree houses, obstacles, and ground-based elements, with the entire area being surrounded by protective netting. That project is also slated for a Spring 2020 completion.
While Bogue spent much of 2018 working with the Prince George Board of Supervisors on the language of the lease agreement that would allow the park to operate on the county-owned land of Scott Memorial Park, the early part of that year saw Bogue pitch the park to Dinwiddie County. At that time, the county’s planning commission recommended not moving forward with the issuance of a conditional use permit for the project, a recommendation that was accepted by the Dinwiddie Board of Supervisors, who ultimately voted down the proposed park.
According to county documents, at that time, concerns about traffic impacts were the primary points of concern for Dinwiddie leaders given its then-proposed location along Blackwell and Quaker roads, which is in a more residential part of the county just off U.S. Route 1 and a short distance from Southside Elementary, as opposed Tree Time’s current home at Scott Memorial Park, which is utilizing an area already home to recreational facilities. During a later public hearing, those Dinwiddie residents voiced their opposition to the proposal, citing traffic issues and the risk to their neighborhood’s ambiance.
Within weeks, Bogue connected with officials in neighboring Prince George County who expressed interest in what the project offered to the county, region, and their continued efforts to expand sports and recreation-based tourism in the county.
As the project was developed and eventually went before the public for consideration in Prince George, while there was support for the paid tree-based experiences, others wanted to see free elements added to the park for the community to enjoy, namely trails for walking and biking. Over the course of Tree Time Adventures’ development, incorporating free amenities into the over 100-acre footprint of the leased area has been an important part of Bogue’s work.
“I think this is a win across the board because it provides an attraction for our park but also, the county’s master plan included nature trails for the community and the beauty of this arrangement is now the county is getting those trails and there is no burden to the taxpayer because obviously that build-out is being done by Tree Time,” he remarked.
In addition, Bogue stressed that the park doesn’t create an expense for taxpayers, noting there is a revenue sharing agreement between Tree Time and the county, which generates funds that go back to Prince George’s coffers.
“This entire project was funded by Tree Time Adventures,” Bogue said. “Not only was it funded by Tree Time Adventures, but this is also a revenue sharing venture as six percent of our gross receipts goes back into the General Fund in Prince George so, there may be some confusion out there by some people thinking this may have been a misuse of their funds.”
Bogue noted that their investments went across the board of the park, from the currently implemented and future plans, to the safety measures put in place to ensure patrons have a fun, but safe time in the park, particularly the tree-based experiences, something he detailed in May, just weeks ahead of the park’s opening.
“Tree-top adventures are fairly new to the United States as these were things that were happening in Europe for 20 years, but this is certainly a young industry in America,” the owner/operator detailed before walking through their rationale for using the European example for their operating plan.
“We are using more of a European model because it is a more mature model,” Bogue said in May. “Some of the things we are doing are safer. We talk about belay – the way we attach to the cabling system of the park. Most of our competitors out there use a system where they have carabiners where they click in and out and, as you move from one element to another, you actually have to unhook and re-attach your belay system in order to keep yourself safe.”
He continued, “If you do that in the right steps, it is safe. Unfortunately, it can get confusing and often times we find that using some of the older methods, especially with younger people, they find themselves in the trees and they are not tied in,” explaining Tree Time Adventures would utilize a “continuous belay” system and a five-point harness system, as opposed to the three-point harness system used by some facilities, which utilize the waist and legs.
“Once you are hooked into our system, there is no way for you to get out of it until you reach the end or until we physically come up and release you from the system,” Bogue said. “Although the three-point harness is pretty safe, the risk there, if for some reason you were to get inverted, there can be some risks involved with having only three points of contact.”
“We have tried to stand out as a premiere facility of its type, in that we not only have a top-level of construction, we have the highest safety equipment and standards in the industry, and, on top of that, when people shop our prices, they will find, not only are we the best, we are the cheapest,” he detailed.
Bogue said customers are already beginning to have engaging experiences at the park as Tree Time Adventures began its first week of business last week.
“I had a military gentleman come out with his two boys and he was quite fit and he went through the course,” the owner shared. “By the time he got finished with the two-and-a-half hour adventure, he was ready to go. In fact, he said he had an exceptional time, he didn’t realize how physically demanding it would be, and he joked that he would be able to skip P.T. [physical training] for the next few weeks.”
The park offers military discounts, group and corporate pricing, along with birthday party hosting, with information on all of those options being available at http://treetimeadventures.com. Their website is also a good place to visit for weather alerts as, due to the heat earlier this month, activities at the park were suspended and where to learn about employment opportunities.