LANESBOROUGH -- Paolo Cugnasca believes he has found a grove of trees that will grow money.
He wants to invest about $1.5 million in building an aerial adventure park in the tree canopy of Brodie Mountain.
Cugnasca is CEO of New York-based Feronia Forests, one of about 700 companies certified as beneficial corporations focused on investments that show a return financially as well as environmentally and socially.
Tree-Mendous, an adventure park design and construction company based in East Chatham, N.Y., is already hard at work on designing the project.
Gerhard Komena, co-owner of Tree-Mendous, noted that by taking on a project like this, Feronia Forests is essentially investing in the trees themselves as revenue generators -- "which essentially turns the investors into tree-huggers, because the trees are generating the return on their investment. So to protect their investments and their returns, they'll be protecting the trees."
In 2007, Feronia purchased roughly 1,500 acres of property on Brodie Mountain. The parcel contains six of the 10 Brodie Mountain wind turbines that recently began operating there.
According to Komena, the adventure park components will be installed using a clamp system that will leave the trees unharmed. No nails, spikes or drill bits will enter the trees, and cables will be cushioned to keep the tree from growing over them.
"This will be pretty much a tree-only attraction in a fairy-tale setting," he said. "We're trying to create a whole eco-center."
The former staging area of that construction project on Brodie Mountain Road will serve as a parking area for the adventure park.
Cugnasca said the park has no name yet.
Once the project's phases are complete, the park will include the canopy network of zip lines and tree forts, a maple sugar harvesting operation complete with a sugar house, a gift shop and parking lot.
So far, Cugnasca said, that is the extent of the vision, although there is plenty of room for expansion.
Cugnasca, Komena said, is quite serious about the project.
"He has been working on this for a while now, and has already spent a lot of money on it," he noted.
There are several outdoor adventure parks in the area, including at Catamount Ski Area in Egremont, Bousquet Ski Area in Pittsfield and Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort in Hancock. Cugnasca said this park would be different in that there would be no ski trails on the ground -- the entire journey will be undertaken by patrons in the forest canopy.
"You'll really be in the trees," he said.
Komena said the park will be open for training sessions for local firefighters and police officers, and that programs are under discussion to bring inner city children to the Berkshires to enjoy the park. Cugnasca estimated the park will employ about 10 people full and part time.
In a preliminary step for the project, Lanesborough voters unanimously approved a zoning change during a special town meeting Tuesday to allow for outdoor adventure parks in commercial areas.
Bill Prendergrast, a member of the Lanesborough Select Board, said the project had plenty of support at the special town meeting, drawing positive comments on the expanding tax base and the increase in local economic development and generated no concerns about traffic.
"It seems like a project in the right place at the right time," he said.
The state attorney general's office has to approve the zoning change that Lanesborough voters endorsed Tuesday, which could take several weeks. Komena and Cugnasca both said that while they are bound by the regulatory process at this point in the project's development, they hope it will move fast enough to allow for the aerial adventure park open by the end of summer.
Construction is estimated to take between three and four months, Komena said.
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