City considering Southwood Park zip line

PARKERSBURG – Officials are considering adding zip lines to Southwood Park.

Mayor Bob Newell said officials will submit a request for proposals this month and already have one company coming to look at areas of Southwood and possibly Johnson T. Janes Park.

Zip lines allow people to rappel from a high area to a low area, riding underneath the line by a pulley and harness system. Zip lines have become increasingly popular in recent years.

“Zip lines have grown considerably in popularity, not just in West Virginia but throughout the nation and around the world,” said Tracy Newberry, foreman for the city’s Parks Division and supervisor of planning and design. Locally, there is a zip line tour in The Wilds in Cumberland, Ohio, “and Hocking Hills (Logan, Ohio), has a zip line canopy tour that has been very successful.”

Newberry said representatives of Inner Quest Inc. out of Purcellville, Va., will tour Parkersburg parks in mid-July to determine if zip lines are feasible and what kinds of lines each area might support.

“They are constructed with all ages in mind,” he said. “You’d want to tailor the design of the zip line to accommodate as many age groups as possible. In some areas they put in both adult and children’s zip lines.”

Newberry said while Southwood will be the focus, officials also will look at Johnson T. Janes Park.

“There are some more rolling-hill terrain in the northern section of that park, and that is going to be reviewed as an alternate site, or a site for a possible canopy tour.”

Newell said Southwood is a good candidate because it has more scenic high and low areas to accommodate a line.

“We have infrastructure that takes you high on the hill where the waterslide is,” he said. “I can envision a couple of lines going across the lake to the other side.”

Newell said a portable zip line was very popular at this year’s multicultural festival.

“That’s what really got me thinking about this,” Newell said. If a permanent zip line is set up at Southwood, “it certainly wouldn’t be a High Adventure one like you see in some of the state parks, but it would be very neat for a city park. It would give people who might not have any other chance to go on a zip line a chance to experience one locally.”

Newell said he hopes the companies also will look at Johnson T. Janes Park, but said he is unsure whether one would be feasible at that location.

“To get the height you need, you might have to put in a lot of infrastructure,” he said.

Newell said while there is some cost to establishing a zip line, “it is comparatively cheap. It’s not like building a skateboard park or putting in a swimming pool.”

Newberry said if officials believe the lines would be feasible, the city would then begin looking at the cost to install and how the lines would be managed, either by the city or through a community or private group.

“The lines have to be carefully designed and certified, and your staff would have to be certified as well,” he said.