Aerial ropes course coming to Mansfield
Published: Friday, February 22, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 22, 2013 00:02
Mansfield will soon be home to a new aerial ropes course, possibly as soon as this spring.
According to Curt Hirsch, the Mansfield zoning agent, Mansfield resident Lynn Stoddard and her husband Christopher Kueffner, plan on building a rope challenge course in the woods off the south side of Storrs Road (Route 195).
Mansfield Zoning Commission documents put the location of the course about a quarter mile from Baxter Road and approximately three miles away from the University of Connecticut Storrs campus.
Stoddard says the project will consist of five separate courses with varying degrees of difficulty. Each of the five courses will be made up of 10 rope-based elements such as wobbly bridges, zip-lines and platforms, all of which are mounted on trees and suspended in the air.
According to Stoddard, the most difficult of the five courses will have rope structures as high as 60 feet off the ground. “You really need to be in good shape for the high one,” she said.
The course is perfectly safe, according to Stoddard, who said it follows all guidelines set by the Association for Challenge Course Technology.
Stoddard said there would be mandatory safety equipment and safety lessons where climbers learn how to operate the equipment.
The aerial rope course is educational as well as physical, said Stoddard. The couple worked with the National Resource Conservation Service, which is a branch of the United States Department of Agriculture, to map out the different vegetation in the area.
There will be signs that teach people about forest ecology and conservation as well as trails through the woods for those who’d rather walk than climb, said Stoddard.
“We thought it would be a good way to help preserve the forest and promote physical activity,” Stoddard said. “We’re concerned about the environment as well as staying active.”
According to the Mansfield Zoning Department statement of use form, the project spans more than 10 acres of forest but affects about 1.25 acres with structures that will cause no harm to the trees.
Hirsch said there was very little work for him to do on the project since almost none of it is in an enclosed space.
However, the proposed parking lot will be built near an inland wetland so he needed to make sure it followed the Inland Wetland guidelines. After passing these guidelines the project gained the Zoning Commissions initial approval.
Kueffner has experience with outdoor projects such as this. He also owns the Merrow Corn Maze at 3 Merrow Road. The maze is used to grow corn for livestock, as well as to teach the public about energy conservation, according to their website.
Stoddard said she expects a lot of business to come from UConn because of how close the course is, in addition to the recent construction of Storrs Center, which should bring more interested people.
Kueffner and Stoddard plan on reaching out to student organizations such as fraternities, sororities and the Student Union Board of Governors at UConn to involve students.
According to Stoddard, this will also mean job opportunities at the course for UConn students who are interested.
“Our course is different from other outdoors courses because no one needs a reservation,” said Stoddard. “Anyone can show up at any time.”
Hirsch said some minor concerns have been raised about the traffic and noise the course will generate but there have been no official objections.
Stoddard said they have received great feedback from the community and believe it’s something Mansfield needs.
“The biggest obstacle has been financing,” said Stoddard, who estimates the cost of engineering and construction to be approximately half a million dollars.
According to Stoddard a lot of this money is going toward evaluating the 10 acres of land and removing dead or dying trees.
Despite the financial challenge, Stoddard said she expects the course will be up and running by either spring or, at the latest, by summer.
“We’re super excited, this is great for the community and we’ve been really happy with the response,” Stoddard said.
According to Stoddard they haven’t decided on a name for the course yet and suspect it may be something like Upper Limits, “But we’re open to any ideas,” she said.