June 14, 2013

Equipped to zip

France Park's new zip line to open soon


---- — Visitors to France Park will soon be able to leap from a nearly 100-foot cliff and travel the span of a 1,400-foot cable over the park’s swimming lake at 30 to 45 miles per hour, the park’s superintendent says.

“It’ll definitely be fun,” said France Park Superintendent Lucas Beach of the park’s new zip line, which is nearing completion by Experiential Systems, a company out of Thornton, Ill. Park staff members are currently undergoing training on the new attraction.

The $19,000 project will open for business sometime next week, Beach went on to say, after park staff has finished training. Visitors weighing between 50 and 300 pounds can pay $8 a ride or $13 to ride all day.

After a quick hike from the beach to the highest cliff overlooking the swimming lake, participants will be fitted with a harness with two pulleys, one for each of the cables that span the 1,400 feet from the cliff to a platform on the edge of the water below.

The pulley hooked into the top cable will hold the braking system, Beach said, bringing zip line riders to a complete and comfortable stop by the time they reach the platform on the ground.

Jamie Hellyer, head of maintenance at the park, took advantage of a perk of the job last week by riding the zip line as the staff began training on its latest attraction.

"It was awesome," he said, adding that it was the first time he's ever experienced a zip line.

"It's kind of intense when you get up on the platform. When you see that cable stretched across the top of that water, your nerves start shaking."

However, the anxiety decreases after that initial, necessary leap, Hellyer continued.

"Once you step off the platform, you realize you're just gliding in the air, it's awesome," he said.

Hellyer said he is looking forward to being able to offer the attraction to the park's visitors this summer.

"It's an exciting new attraction and I think a lot of people will enjoy the ride once they can get over the initial adrenaline rush of getting on it," he said. "It's beautiful going across that quarry."

Experiential Systems has been installing recreational equipment for the last 30 years, said Tim Rhodes, operations manager with the company. Taking jobs mostly in the Midwest, the company has also installed equipment in California, Arizona and Italy.

Along with zip lines; climbing walls, climbing towers and ropes courses are all a part of Experiential's repertoire. The company provides training for its equipment as well.

"We do a fair amount of zip lines," Rhodes said, estimating that the one in France Park broke a company record. "We've done some thousand-footers, but 1,400 I think is the longest we've done."

The zip line's span and location made for a unique project, Rhodes went on to say.

"The length and it being over a quarry is pretty cool," he said. "I know one of our guys is talking about the big fish that live in the lake that you can see as you zip over the top, which is pretty cool as well."

Workers from Experiential Systems will be returning today for adjustments, Beach said, followed by the completion of staff training next week.

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or

France Park zip line About 100 feet high About 1,400 feet long Speeds of about 30 to 45 mph