High in the treetops above the New River Gorge in southern West Virginia is an unusual example of sustainability at work. The newly opened (May, 2009) Adventure West Virginia Treetops Canopy Tour provides its riders with a 3 hour tour of the forest’s canopy over its mile long series of zip lines and skybridges. The tour brings the rider into and over the forest. It also helps support saving the forest from potential long-term extinction. This is because $1 of each ticket goes to fund treatments to protect over 3,000 hemlock trees in the forest from the dangerous hemlock woolly adelgid.
The Canopy Tour is a partnership between Class VI Mountain River, a rafting company on the New River and Bonsai Design, who designs canopy tours. Class VI was hoping to expand their rafting and resort business with a complementary experience. Bonsai Design specializes in zip line courses and incorporates various sustainable practices into their designs and operations. Some general examples are listed on their http://www.bonsai-design.com website.
The attraction’s design incorporates numerous sustainable elements. The average New River tour zipliner would certainly notice the platforms they are standing on. They might not notice that the platforms are actually 2 halves connected by growth clamps to accommodate future growth of the tree. In 40 years, a hemlock tree might grow 8 inches in girth—so the platforms need to be expandable. Other types of trees might grow more. Only a very small minority of the same zipliners would see that the support cables are not digging into the tree trunks. Rather, they encircle wood blocks against the trees. This allows the nutrients to continue to flow up and down the tree’s trunk. The pressure of the cables keeps the blocks in place. The flowing nutrients keep the trees alive and the Canopy Tour in business.
Quoted in the August 2009 issue of Popular Mechanics, Bonsai Design’s founder John Walker said, “We have to think about the here and now and the years to come.” This perfectly illustrates the long-term perspective that sustainability implies. The sustainable design decisions made now help ensure the long-term viability of Class VI’s Mountain River’s Canopy Tour asset.
Popular Mechanics article