Outdoor enthusiasts in the Sacramento area will soon have a new area to explore: treetops.
An Austrian company will build several different ropes courses with balancing platforms, tightropes, swings and zip lines in a grove of oak trees in West Sacramento’s Southport area. Ropes courses are often used for team-building exercises as people navigate challenging obstacles together.
The course was approved by the West Sacramento City Council last week. The goal is to open early next year, said Kale Wisnia, co-owner of the U.S. branch of Austrian company Kletterwald.
“We want to get people out in nature and out in trees – into the canopies that they might not get another opportunity” to explore, Wisnia said. “It’s not something you get to do every day.”
The course would sit on 9.1 acres at the corner of Lake Washington Boulevard and Village Parkway. The grove takes up about half of the nascent park, filling the back left corner and stretching diagonally from the front left to the back right corner. The rest is grassy open space.
The city envisions a park that will celebrate and take advantage of the trees, said Parks and Recreation business manager Traci Michel.
“One thing that’s great about West Sacramento is they’re known for their progressive perspective on the kind of amenities they want to provide to their communities,” Wisnia said. “This was right up their alley.”
Kletterwald, which means “climbing forest” in German, has built several successful challenge courses in Europe.
When Wisnia and his partners began looking for a location in the United States, they first explored a location in Indiana before looking closer to their U.S. home base of Sacramento. They reached out to city staff and state park managers around the area and received the most enthusiastic response from West Sacramento.
The parks director “had her eyes already set on a couple of parks that were undeveloped and unfunded,” Wisnia said. “We fell in love with the grove instantly because it’s just awesome.”
The land was given to the city as part of a 2016 agreement with the developer of the Newport Meadows subdivision. Eighty-three heritage oaks stand in the grove of trees covering about half of the site. The trees were evaluated individually by an arborist, who recommended ways to lengthen the life of the trees, Wisnia said.
“Our livelihood is trees and we endeavor to be stewards of trees,” he said. “We want to bring awareness to these majestic wonders.”
There are some sick trees that may have to come down, but most are in good condition. Kletterwald is already planning to plant more saplings throughout the grove and in the open section of the park to usher in the next generation of oak trees, Wisnia said. An arborist will assess the trees twice a year, per the agreement with the city.
Michel, the city parks official, said West Sacramento is simultaneously applying for a state grant to fund an interactive trail along the left and back sides of the property.
The goal is to “really focus the messaging on the value of the urban forest, the oaks and ways to create sustainability,” she said.
Wisnia said Kletterwald also wants to incorporate educational signs in the canopy courses to reinforce that tree canopies are ecosystems dependent on both the trees and the wildlife that live among the branches.
“Hopefully both children and adults will understand more about what makes up an oak tree, what makes up the ecosystem where oak trees thrive,” he said.
The ropes course will have an entry fee, of which $2 will flow back to city coffers. The rest of the park will be free.
“People can come and explore the park and watch people on the ropes course,” Michel said.
A similar concept is slated to open in Rocklin in the spring. Quarry Park Adventures will include zip lines, a giant swing, climbing walls and outdoor decks with views of a waterfall. That park is under construction in a former quarry. The city is funding the construction and Legacy Family Adventures will run it.
West Sacramento is not subsidizing Kletterwald’s rope course, but the company will receive money that Newport Meadows’ developer set aside for street improvements. Michel said the company will complete the improvements faster than the city could have.