Who greased the grapevine? 

He dreamed of a Tarzan-style adventure course in the trees where he could get his family outside, exercising and spending time together. His neighbors saw increased traffic and the destruction of peaceful public land, all so a corporation could make a buck.

Months ago, Chris DeCicco got together with a few other Monument residents to create a company that could build an "aerial adventure" park high in the trees of Fox Run Regional Park. They'd use wood, rope and strong wire to make ladders, bridges, tunnels and zip lines. And, of course, the "vine" swings.

Though the proposed project would involve just five to 10 of Fox Run's approximately 400 acres, fear of potential impacts stirred up hundreds of residents this past summer. A public meeting July 15 drew 20 to 30 people with mixed views on the project. About 200 showed up at the second meeting Aug. 31, with 182 signing a petition against the park.

"If this is the sentiment," says DeCicco today, "then I don't want to put in the time and energy. I thought it would be a great place that people wanted and supported."

So DeCicco's company and a second interested company have decided not to move forward, and the Park Advisory Board has tabled the plans.

The second company, Go Ape, was actually the model for DeCicco's company, Ape Escape Adventure Parks. Go Ape has 26 similar parks in the U.K., and has been trying to expand in the U.S. It had become interested in building the park after hearing about DeCicco's efforts.

Concerns the companies faced ranged from lack of public awareness to insufficient county attention to traffic and environmental worries.

"The whole thing sounded a little off-the-wall for a wilderness park," says Monument resident Bob Hostetler, who has donated time and money to area parks but tried to avoid the situation last summer. "The idea of messing with the wilderness area of the park should be the concern."

Many residents were not aware of the obstacle-course concept and thought it would be strictly zip lines, as at Soaring in Durango, the closest similar park. Others were upset that paths would be closed, although Tim Wolken, director of county parks and leisure services, says, "we would have required that the county trail systems remain open."

The top objection was to a private entity using public land, despite the potential benefits to such a plan. Wolken says the park would attract more teenagers and families, with a percentage of profits and lease payments supporting Fox Run.

This kind of partnership has worked in Maryland's Montgomery County, home to Go Ape's sole U.S. park. According to Wolken, Go Ape provides $30,000 to $40,000 each year to the county.

And this year, similar WildPlay parks in Canada were voted into two of the Top 10 spots ranking new or improved summer attractions in all of Canada by Where travel magazine.

Wolken says there were no plans for major buildings or roads. Nearby residents requested a traffic study, but he says the county "elected to discontinue the due diligence prior to determining whether this would be required." He and DeCicco, however, had discussed potentially limiting the number of visitors per day to between 100 and 200.

Aside from community concerns, technical disputes between county staff and proponents would need to be addressed before any further action is taken.

DeCicco plans to research different locations in Colorado but says, "I would reconsider trying to build it around here if our community is really interested."

Anyone wanting to channel his or her inner Tarzan nearby can e-mail c_decicco@msn.com.



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