News

Adventure Course officially opens on Parkway

John Law

By John Law, Niagara Falls Review

Nearly a year after it was originally set to open, the Wildplay Whirlpool Adventure Course finally cut the ribbon Friday.

The attraction, from the same company which opened the MistRider Zipline ride last year, went through a series of delays before opening to the public in mid April.

Tom Benson, chief experience officer with Victoria, BC-based Wildplay, said the main issue was the use of helmets, as mandated by Ontario's Technical Standards Safety Authority (TSSA). The Niagara Falls site is the only one of 12 adventure courses Wildplay has built which required head gear.

“We don't use helmets on our other courses, it's a requirement that's local to this jurisdiction,” he said. “A lot of studies have been done that show helmets present more of an entrapment risk than a strike injury in this kind of course.

“You're not rock climbing, something's not going to fall on your head, and you're not going to fall off (the course) because you're permanently attached. But by the same token, that's the (TSSA's) standard.”

As variance issues continued last summer, Wildplay decided not to open mid-season and waited to start fresh in the spring of 2017.

The finished product offers adventure courses for both children and adults, featuring mini-ziplines, cargo nets, tightropes and other hurdles 40 feet in the air. There is no risk of falling because patrons are constantly tethered.

The key, said Benson, is to create the illusion of danger with zero possibility of it.

“The trick shot here is creating perceived risk,” he said. “You need to feel like you're putting yourself out there, but we don't want you to be able to hurt yourself in any big way.”

Aside from the occasional sprained foot, Benson said there has never been any substantial injury on a Wildplay course.

“We've been pushing the standards in our industry since the day we started.”

The Niagara Falls course is unique in that it doesn't utilize trees, he adds, and there are some spectacular views in some areas. At one point of the course, patrons will feel like they're 200 feet in the air because they're right near the edge of the Niagara Gorge.

“You're mind's telling you this isn't the right thing to do, but it's exciting,” said Wildplay Niagara Falls general manager Rich Merlino.

Friday's guests had several patrons enjoying the course above them while they spoke.

Mayor Jim Diodati said it offered a more “organic” attraction for the city, while Niagara Falls MPP Wayne Gates said it mixed “physical activities with the environment.”

The course is located directly next to Thompson Point and the Whirlpool Golf Course along the Niagara Parkway – a sore point among some locals who feel it intrudes on the parkway's natural beauty.

Niagara Parks Commission chairwoman Janice Thomson said the attraction will “enhance” the area, and answers a common request from visitors for “more participatory outdoor activities.” The area will include new benches, picnic tables, a bike repair station and an extension of the Niagara River Recreation Trail.

“The Commission reviewed all aspects of what would be involved in a project like this, to ensure it would enhance the visitor experience,” she said, “as well as one's appreciation of the beauty and environmental importance of the Niagara Gorge, the Glen and Whirlpool Basin, below.

“To do this, we took our time to get this right.”

Consultations on the course and the zipline began in 2013.

Enjoying the course Friday were friends Bakhtawar Khan and Rebecca Bausinger of Niagara Falls.

“It was a different experience, I'd never done anything like this,” said Khan. “It looks intimidating from the bottom, but when you get on it's actually nice.”

“It's got good views,” added Bausinger, who said it took about an hour to complete.

Admission is $19.99 for the Kids Course, and $39.99 for the Classic Course. Extra obstacles can be added to the Classic Course for $9.99.

jlaw@postmedia.com

 



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