EAST MANATEE -- For Carey Miller it was the "leap of faith."
Shannon Rossey called it "exhilarating!"
Owner Kathy Corr keeps conservation a priority, while her business partner and husband, Aaron Corr, reminds adventurers to remember to pay attention to their bird's eye view of Florida nature when they take to the skyline today at the grand opening of TreeUmph!, the area's first treetop obstacle course, off State Road 70 in east Manatee.
"The walkways are wobbling under you so it doesn't get any less exciting after the rope portion because you're wiggling and moving across," said Miller, an office administrator for the Manatee Chamber of Commerce. "It kind of gets your heart going. I knew if I fell or anything they're there to help you so I wasn't really worried about falling but still, you know, you're up in the trees and there's not a lot underneath you so
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it really gets the adrenaline going, definitely."
Her childhood friend and Ballard School classmate, Rossey, did experience the unexpected fall, yet took time to catch her breath and continue the course undeterred.
"The leap of faith was actually a lot of fun," Rossey said. "You just hold onto a rope and go for it. I didn't have quite as much upper-body strength as I thought I had, but they're there for you so I carried on and it was a lot of fun.
"I've never done anything like this before, but it's fun to know if you have a lot of bumps on the road you can finish it, you can do it," said Rossey, a Blake Medical Center orthopedic nurse.
"We did the introductory course, which is four different little stages," Miller said. "We went straight from there to the leap of faith, which I think is the hardest part of the course. A lot of upper-body strength is needed. You jump off and you swing down a piece of rope and then you climb up a little piece of rope, and you walk down a lot of wobbly stuff and then you do some climbing. It's kind of like playing Tarzan," Miller said.
Owner Aaron Corr explained there are five courses, with the higher and more challenging courses requiring more upper-body strength. Designed specifically for the piece of land in rural Manatee County, TreeUmph! differs from the tree canopy walkway at Myakka State Park, which is only a bridge, according to Aaron Corr. However, he says there are still sites to see once a climber reaches the treetops.
"Most people focus on the games. It is very beautiful in Florida and most people have never been up there," he said.
The park was built with as little impact as possible on the natural landscape, said Alex Scholten, another partner in the business and Kathy Corr's brother. "When Aaron spotted this property he knew it was what we needed and he wanted to be sure that it didn't environmentally impact the trees."
To get the zip lines in and to put in the platforms, TreeUmph! worked with the company TreeGo to have a compression system installed that secures platforms to trees without damaging them or infringing on their continued growth and health. The courses are designed to minimize root damage and preserve sensitive habitats, Kathy Corr said.
"Ecotourism, this is what it's all about," said Robert Rosenberg of the North Port Economic Development Council, who was there to try out the course, "To see a venue like this is phenomenal. It's going to mean a lot to the region."
Aaron Corr said they encourage nonprofit groups to contact them for fundraisers or group rates for organizations, as they want to get involved with the community.
TreeUmph!'s grand opening celebration runs from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. today at 21806 S.R. 70 E., Bradenton. All park guests who make reservations today or Sunday receive 10 percent off the regular admission price, which is $49.95 for adults older than 16, $25.95 for children ages 7-11, and $34.95 for ages 9-15 or 65 and older. Senior and children's courses differ from general admission. Additional accommodations are available for groups, private guides and other specialities.
The grand opening will offer free T-shirts, pizza, beverages and a drawing for a free season pass. Call 855-322-2130 or visit www.TreeUmph.com for reservations.