Go Ape treetops course in Swope Park is on pace to open in April

The high rope crossings between platforms in the Go Ape attraction, as well as elements on the course, have names such as fisherman’s trap (vertical cage on far left), the Tibetan bridge (net crossing left) and tic tac toe (right crossing).
The high rope crossings between platforms in the Go Ape attraction, as well as elements on the course, have names such as fisherman’s trap (vertical cage on far left), the Tibetan bridge (net crossing left) and tic tac toe (right crossing). jtoyoshiba@kcstar.com

Construction is nearing completion on the newest attraction in Swope Park: a treetop adventure course that will have people experiencing zip lines and Tarzan swings beginning April 9.

Just last week, despite windy, chilly weather, crews were hammering away on part of the Go Ape activity and obstacle course in the southeast forest canopy of the park.

“They’re happy to be here,” Go Ape site manager Hannah Bowen said of the workers creating the course. Some have come all the way from France, since Maryland-based Go Ape partners with a French company in the design and construction of its courses.

This will be the company’s 14th course in the U.S. and the second in Missouri, following one that opened in 2013 in Creve Coeur Park in St. Louis County.

Bowen, who recently moved to Kansas City to manage the new site after working at Go Ape’s Raleigh, N.C., course, said she loves these treetops adventure attractions because they help people experience their city and parks in a whole new way, on tree-mounted platforms more than 40 feet in the air.

“It gets people outdoors. It gets people active. It’s really fun,” she said.

The Go Ape zip line and treetop adventure course is under construction in Swope Park. A grand opening is scheduled for April 9.

It’s available to people age 10 and older, for just about anyone who can climb a rope ladder. The course features zip lines up to 500 feet long and 30-foot Tarzan swings into a cargo net, but Bowen emphasizes one thing: “You don’t have to be an American Ninja Warrior to do the course.”

It’s designed for family outings, corporate team-building, couples on dates, and school and other social groups. There’s safety training, and people are equipped with helmets, harnesses and other safety gear.

The entire course can take two to three hours to complete. Prices range from $37 for children to $57 for those age 16 and up, although the company offers many discounted and free tickets and reaches out to groups working with underserved youths.

Forest Decker, who is overseeing this project for the Kansas City parks department, experienced the Go Ape course in St. Louis County with other parks employees. One of their group was terrified of heights.

“But he felt safe and secure the whole time,” Decker said.

Decker is impressed with how quickly it has all come together since construction began in mid-January. The seven-acre course, with five stations, should be finished in a few weeks, and then instructor training will begin.

The parks department sought adventure course proposals to provide another attraction to draw more people to Swope Park and to complement the bike trails, zoo, golf course and Starlight Theatre.

Go Ape is paying to build the course and will share a small percentage of its revenue with the parks department.

The location, just to the east of the Kansas City Police Department’s Mounted Patrol facility, was chosen for its mix of terrain and large canopy of mature trees.

But that location has prompted some concerns among the Friends of the Mounted Patrol, a nonprofit group that has raised $200,000 to restore and help equip the Mounted Patrol stable.

In a letter to Police Chief Darryl Forte, the group pointed out that the one-lane road leading to the location is in poor condition, with lots of potholes and other pavement damage. They also raised concerns about parking, and how more traffic to the site increases the potential for vandalism and damage to the stable, the horses and police equipment.

In an email to The Star, police spokesman Tye Grant acknowledged the organization’s issues. “Their concerns are obviously important to us,” he said. “We will continue to work with the parks department on this endeavor to address any concerns regarding the use of the area.”

Parks officials say they are addressing those concerns, although the road remains in deteriorated condition, and they have not yet identified the estimated $200,000 in funds needed to restore it.

Lynn Horsley: 816-226-2058, @LynnHorsley