Ropes course discussed as proposed addition to Dan Nicholas Park

Published 12:05 am Friday, January 13, 2017

By Josh Bergeron

SALISBURY — The first addition to Dan Nicholas Park in nine years could be complete by March.

Rowan County commissioners will need to give their formal approval, but on Thursday they informally agreed to provide money for a ropes course in a wooded area near the entrance to the park. The ropes course would consist of “activities suspended between utility poles and trees,” according to a presentation by Forsyth County-based Adventure Management Group LLC. The course would sit 15 to 45 feet off the ground and stretch over two acres.

The total cost of the project would be roughly $350,000, said Jonathan Berry, managing partner of Adventure Management. Part of the cost would be split by private developers and the county.

Berry said he wants construction on the ropes course to start in late February. The opening date ideally would be in March, he said.

On Thursday — the first day of the county commissioners’ two-day planning retreat — Don Bringle, the county’s parks and facilities coordinator, said the ropes course would be partially paid for with money from the Murtis Nicholas account, a fund that has $190,000 in donated money. Bringle said he had been working to bring a ropes course to Dan Nicholas Park for about two years. There hasn’t been  an addition there in nine years, he said.

“I think it’s the right thing, the right piece for our park,” he said.

Under the proposal made Thursday, a third-party group — not Rowan County — would operate the park on a daily basis. County government would lease out land, and the third party would build as many as six routes and 40 challenge activities, according to the plan.

The company would pay the county a percentage of revenue from operations. In 2018, Adventure Management Group projects the county would receive $21,360 if the ropes course generates $356,000 in revenue. Commissioners seemed to agree with an idea proposed by Bringle — that lease revenue would reimburse the fund containing donated money.

Once lease revenue repays the Murtis Nicholas fund, Finance Director Leslie Heidrick proposed that the lease revenue would go into the county’s general fund.

County commissioners did not formally vote on the ropes course idea during Thursday’s meeting. They also didn’t set a fee that park visitors might pay to use the ropes course. County Manager Aaron Church said the board could consider allowing students in Rowan-Salisbury Schools to use the course for free.

“I think what we wanted to do is to present this to you and then take action when we have our regularly scheduled meeting,” said Commissioners Vice Chairman Jim Greene, who is the liaison to the parks board.

Commissioners and county staff discussed potential liability issues stemming from having a ropes course. Church compared any liability associated with a ropes course to that of having a mountain biking trail.

In addition to pitching the $350,000 option, Berry showed off more expensive configurations that could cost $600,000 or more.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.