Treetop adventure course could elevate attractions at North Myrtle Beach park

Come September, locals and Grand Strand tourists could be climbing through the treetops and zipping across the lake at the North Myrtle Beach Park and Sports Complex, if the City Council approves a lease agreement Friday with Go Ape Treetop Adventures.

The council is holding a special meeting at 4 p.m. in City Hall to consider the agreement, and if the vote is positive, Go Ape will have until Sept. 1 to build the initial part of what will become, according to its developers, an experience. The initial phase will include everything but the zip lines.

“We don’t call ourselves a thrill ride,” said Dan D’Agastino, USA managing director for Go Ape.

D’Agastino said that people who go on the adventure may choose their own level of experience, but for the really brave-hearted, there will be a zip line across the lake at the park and Tarzan swings through the trees.

The less adventurous will be able to experience the special feeling of walking through the treetops, across bridges and through tunnels.

Go Ape joins a new Jetpack Adventures at the lake area of the park. John Bullard, North Myrtle Beach parks and recreation director, said the city is also negotiating with another vendor that would install cables across the lake to pull water skiers without a boat.

That attraction, if it comes to fruition, would debut next year, Bullard said.

He said the city learned about Go Ape through an employee who had read about the company.

Bullard said the city had been considering a zip line at the park when Go Ape was discovered.

The contract the council will vote on late Friday afternoon requires the company to put in a standalone zip line by March 15 and a junior treetop course by June 1 next year.

Go Ape will pay the city a percentage of its annual revenue to lease the space it uses, but no less that $20,000 a year, according to the contract. The percent payment starts at 7 percent for $1 million revenue and rises to 15 percent for $2 million revenue.

D’Agastino said the regular course will take participants two hours to three hours to complete and will cost $55 for people age 18 and over, and $35 for those from ages 10 to 17. Training will be included.

The charge for the standalone zip line has not been decided, he said.

He said that he believes the course will remain open year-round, but that too is not yet finalized.

Go Ape will limit the number of customers on the course to enhance the experience, with no more than 250 customers a day.

While the course will reach as high as 50 feet, it will start off about 10 feet above ground and ascend to 20 feet before reaching for the stars. People will be encouraged to challenge themselves on the course, but D’Agastino said that people of any age and physical level will find things to enjoy.

He said a 92-year-old woman is the oldest customer the company has had at any of its locations, and she was game for everything, including the zip line.

“We’ve had a lot of 80 year olds,” he said.

Go Ape will also offer team-building and self-esteem training using the course.

North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley said the city has been talking with the company for some time.

She said council members are familiar with the company and the concept, and she doesn’t think there’s any opposition to it.

“Of course I’m going to go on it,” Hatley said. “I think it would be wonderful.”