Many have most-likely shrieked a howling Tarzan scream when leaping from a high rock, swinging wildly on a rope, or climbing as high as possible up a tree — and then jumping. Now, in the jungle-like forest of near-by Rock Creek Regional Park in Rockville, adventure seekers can release their pent-up adrenalin and once again connect with their inner Tarzan.
Go Ape is a high-adventure obstacle course featuring rope ladders, zip lines, a zip-line skateboard, lofty plank crossings and challenges taking one higher and higher into the forest.
The two-to-three hour quest dares participants to conquer their inner fears and face physical challenges by zipping down lines, crawling up rope ladders, hanging onto suspension ropes and more. The course is safe; instructors see to it that safety harnesses fit and are tightened correctly, that participants are trained in the use of the lines and carabiners and that participants are connected by three devices at all times .
Go Ape Treetop Adventures is a national company with 14 locations and more on the way — all in forested, publicly-owned parks. The company was founded six years ago by Dan and Jenny D’Agostino and Chris Swallow. Dan D’Agostino, who grew up in Derwood, met Swallow, a Reston, Va. native, while both were employed by Booz Allen. The three had a vision of creating a business model which would not only be successful, but also allow them the opportunity to give back. They stumbled upon a network of zipline and aerial adventure courses in the United Kingdom, developed a business plan to partner with national and local park systems and established their first Go Ape USA course in Rockville. Their national headquarters is located in Frederick, Md. with “Go Ape” locations in Connecticut, Delaware, Chicago, Louisville, Raleigh, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Williamsburg, Texas, Myrtle Beach, Indianapolis, St. Louis and Kansas City, Mo.
“Our partnership with the parks has worked out incredibly well,” Swallow said. “We provide the capital investment and design, build and operate each course. One of our goals is to sustain the environment and maintain the natural landscape. We work with a French designer who has drafted over 500 courses. Each course is different, depending on the topography and natural elements of the park. We place as light a footprint as possible in the park, but we also make certain that the design makes sense from an operational viewpoint. The parks pay nothing, but receive a percentage of each ticket sale to reinvest back in their communities.”
“Go Ape” has reinvested over $645,000 into public parks. Its stewardship activities support community-based groups working to preserve the environments in their own backyards. Some of the environmental projects they have supported include cleanups at their Lums Pond and Rock Creek locations, the removal of non-native species, maintaining trails throughout the parks and creating new ones, leaving snags for wildlife, and building bird and bat boxes.
When they founded Go Ape, the three were also motivated to give back to non-profit organizations such as the Wounded Warrior Project, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Baltimore City Kids Wilderness and Montgomery County Destination Outdoors by providing free or discounted access to their Treetop Adventure Course. “It’s really gratifying to see the confidence that our challengers build as they complete the course,” said Swallow. “They go from saying ‘I can’t’ to finding out ‘They can!’”
The Treetop Adventure course is open to gorillas and baboons (or people too) 10 or over who are at least 55 inches tall. A Treetop Junior course, designed for chimpanzees or mini-Tarzans is available for younger children. The cost is dependent on the course. Prices, supervision requirements, waivers and more information are available on www.goape.com. Reservations are essential on the weekend and preferable during the week.