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May 28, 2011


Ross Grady

FWIW, there's also a high ropes course at Bond Park in Cary, which is open to the public, albeit with a fee, and a prerequisite of taking their low ropes course first.

Michael Bacon

I had no idea this was going in. What a great addition!

John Davis

How much will it cost the taxpayers? Even if they charge a fee the insurance must be high. To put it another way if this was a good financial idea the private sector would have already done it.

John Davis

Correction: I said insurance not liability. All I see is potential claims for injuries.

Michael Bacon

John: Just out of curiosity, do you think all public parks should be provided by the private sector? If not, how is this one different?

Mark Critzer

I visited the park today. Just three people were there, probably because it's still unknown and out of the way. Nice course, but not much of a zip line. It doesn't interest me much as I'm not afraid of heights to get a thrill out of it. I really liked the covered tennis and basketball courts for when the weather is poor. There is also a Frisbee golf course in the woods which looks like it's still under construction. I don't know enough about the sport, but one would need to bring along a machete to make par given all the undergrowth.

I'm also very concerned about the cost of liability to the city, as the rope course really should be a private sector activity, and there are places in the Triangle one can go to do these "risky" (from a lawyer's point of view) things. Insurance and disclaimers aside, do we really think there will be enough interest locally to keep a couple of supervisors busy all day? I'll have to wait and see if it becomes a money-loser. We had a lot more money in 2005 to build these things, but today is far different. I hope the bond covered salaries and maintenance going forward at least 10 years.

Mark Critzer

Oh, and definitely DPR needs one of those attractive new signs pointing the way to the new park from Ellis Rd and from Angier Ave. They're very eye-catching.

I'd like the see the number of visitors rise significantly before I pass judgement on the cost/benefit. Again, I don't know anyone who knew about the park, except me when I read it on this blog.

Mark Critzer

Michael: I think it's pretty obvious this rope course is a very different addition to a public park. No one is making an argument that public parks with the more traditional set of offerings should be built and maintained by the private sector. I believe John is just pointing out that a rope course would be better suited for a private facility. I tend to agree for reasons already stated.

Michael Bacon

Mark: The article states that the course doesn't officially open until June 8, so I'm not sure that judging attendance right now is a great metric.

There's a good bit of daylight between, "this is too high a risk for the City to take on," and "if this was a good financial idea the private sector would have already done it." The former implies a concern about liability, and I can see that as debatable, the latter that park projects should be judged on whether they can return a financial investment. The high ropes course that I've been on was built by the YMCA of Asheville, and I'm pretty sure it wasn't built as a profit leader. (The YMCA is, of course, a non-profit.) I don't think the city should be looking to make money on this course -- I think that's beside the point. I think that having a high ropes course available for use in the city is a public good that improves quality of life and allows a wider range of the public to have these experiences. Of course the city should charge for it to cover some of the costs -- it's too expensive and risky an undertaking to simply have open to the public. However, if it can operate the course at a moderate loss, I think this is a good public investment and improvement to our city that never would have happened in the private sector. I don't see this as that different than the city-operated Hillandale golf course or Chapel Hill's climbing wall. I'm frankly thrilled to see Parks and Rec really starting to expand what Durham parks can be beyond aging picnic shelters, playgrounds, and tennis courts, and I find this sort of libertarian harumphing tired and sad.

Matthew E. Milliken

Everyone, I appreciate the readership and the comments! Some responses:

Ross, I updated the story to mention Cary’s Bond Park, which was not prominently featured in the Google searches I conducted. If there are other area high-ropes courses that I've missed, please let me know and I'll add them.

John and Mark, Parks and Recreation hadn’t figured out all the budget details when I visited the high ropes course. Clearly if this facility runs significantly in the red, that will be a major problem.

Since the high ropes course will mostly be run on an appointment-only basis (excepting those "discovery days" I mentioned), it's conceivable that the course won't lose much money at all even if it receives little traffic. The facility should be locked up any time it's not in use, so I assume no supervisor will be needed if there are no bookings.

And yes, safety issues are also potentially significant. The fact that the city insures itself could minimize that matter, especially if the facilitators can keep the course injury-free.

Mark, I agree that Bethesda Park might benefit from some extra signs pointing the way! Maybe those will come once the high ropes course officially opens...?

I didn’t look at the disc golf course, but I thought the covered courts were nicely done and should make it easier for folks to play in different types of weather without the expense of completely enclosing the facility. On the other hand, I wonder how playable the basketball and tennis courts might be if winds carry the water onto the playing surfaces. (But that's another story!)

Thanks all for reading and commenting!

mark d

Homestar Runner? Nice sound byte. Looks fun. Thanks for trying it out for us.

Just saying

frankly i think this is a great addition to Durham and i don't know why people are hatting on this? As someone who worked with Charleston Parks and Rec for 12 year i can tell you Durham parks and rec has stepped ups its game. i am glad to see Durham is thinking outside the box to get people active.
offering it on a for hire bases there really should be no lost.
As for safety high ropes course operate on "persevered risk" your more likely to be hurt doing any traditional sport with the city than on any ropes course.
this will cover its own cost and provide something really cool to Durhamites. i am sure Raleigh parks and rec is kicking them self right now wishing they had something like this.

Wondering if anyone knows what is going on

Speaking about Parks and Rec. Does anyone know why they built a very nice sidewalk from the Mangum House to the picnic shelter at West Point, Then a few weeks later they tore it out? This is where the waste of money comes in. One would think that many people in the City Government knew about this. So what went wrong Parks and Rec? And how much was wasted?


Frankie's Fun Park (3.5 miles away from this site) opened their "Sky Trail" last year.

Subcomandante Beaver

The Durham Coalition for Urban Beaver demands a public meeting!

NFL shop

The formation of the Knickerbockers club across the Hudson River created a division in the group of Manhattan players. Several of the players refused to cross the river on a ferry to play ball because they did not like the distance away from home. Those players stayed behind and formed their own club, the "New York Nine".

Sean Hartung

The private sector of Durham would never even dream of doing something like this, and it has nothing to do with cost. I LIKE IT!!

Trudy Lonegan

I like it! Good for Durham! Anyone know the age requirement?

Henrik Lundqvist Jersey

Homestar Runner? Nice sound byte. Looks fun. Thanks for your post.

ralph lauren casquette

Eerst en vooral wil ik geweldig blog te zeggen! Ik had een korte vraag die ik zou willen vragen of je het niet erg. Ik was geïnteresseerd om uit te vinden hoe je jezelf centreren en voorgaande duidelijk je gedachten aan het schrijven. Ik heb een harde tijd het opruimen mijn geest bij het verkrijgen van mijn ideeën uit. Ik echt wel leuk schrijven maar het net lijkt alsof de eerste 10 tot 15 minuten worden over het algemeen verspild gewoon proberen om erachter te komen hoe te beginnen. Alle ideeën of tips? Dank je wel!

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