The best aerial adventure park in the country? Ramblewild featured in USA Today poll
LANESBOROUGH — Typically, when someone is clambering 40 feet off the ground through the canopy of a New England forest, they aren't going to stop and think about voting.
But the folks at Ramblewild are hoping their adventurous friends and customers will do just that, and raise the aerial adventure park to the top of a list of 20 of the best aerial parks in the country as compiled by USA Today.
Anyone who logs on here can vote for Ramblewild and possibly help boost it to the top five, or even No. 1. On Friday it was ranked sixth. The voting ends April 22.
"There are hundreds of aerial parks and zip lines in the U.S., so this is really big for us to be in the top 20," said Ramblewild co-founder Valentina Cugnasca. "And if we win, that would plant a big shiny star on the Berkshires."
Ramblewild opened in June 2014. It occupies 11 acres of a 1,500-acre property.
It is set to open for the season on April 20, according to general manager Derek Hargreaves.
The park features eight aerial trails — two each on four levels of expertise: beginner, intermediate, advanced and expert. Using safety harnesses and helmets, visitors climb into the forest canopy and travel through the woods from tree to tree on assembled aerial pathways without ever touching the ground.
Each trail has 18 elements to navigate, such as bridges, ladders, rope swings, cargo netting, zip lines or log obstacles. In all, there are 450 elements. Some of the elements are a little mind bending, such as the zip lines upon which people ride a kayak or a saddle or a skateboard across a gorge.
At peak season — July and August — the park employs about 30 people, and hosts between 200 and 300 visitors per day, Hargreaves said.
Prices are $69 for adults, $59 for visitors 17 years old or younger. Berkshire County residents get a 25 percent discount upon showing their ID.
"We feel we are a very unique in how we operate the business," Hargreaves said. "For example, we also have a number of educational programs for all ages."
He said a good result in the poll "would certainly be nice — being recognized by our peers on a national level. But it would also be good for the Berkshires as a whole. We're all in this together."
In prepping the park for opening in 2014, Cugnasca came up with a plan to use the entire property as a financial resource by operating educational programs, corporate team-building activities and tours of the forest — alongside the aerial adventure attractions — to reacquaint urban dwellers with the natural world.
"There is a way to generate financial activity in a forest without cutting down trees," she said.
The property is home to six of the 10 Berkshire Wind turbines and miles of nature trails. And the parent company of Ramblewild, Feronia Forests, operates a sugaring operation which yields both maple syrup and maple water, Cugnasca noted.
It's a matter of harnessing the forest ecosystems to "create social, environmental and financial impact" by treating it as a partner — nurturing its growth while it returns the favor — rather than just as a source of raw materials, she said.
"So the question became: How do we reconnect people to nature in a way that's fun and exciting," Cugnasca said. "And it's nice to see the impact this magnificent and magical experience has on people's personal lives. The fact that we can have an impact like this makes it a privilege."
The USA Today poll is an opportunity to highlight the Berkshires and all the attractions within, Cugnasca said.
"The more people we can bring to Ramblewild, the more people we bring to the Berkshires — and the more people will leave with a different perspective about the forest and about themselves."
Scott Stafford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-629-4517.
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