By Peter Hildebrandt
Published in Rope News & Sling Technology August 2015
All photographs courtesy of American Adventure Park Systems and Historic Banning Mills.
Owner Mike Holder is part of the inspection and certification organization for zip lines. He writes the tests for such developments involving wire rope cables.
American Adventure Park Systems started up relatively recently, 2014 to be exact. “We started American Adventure Park Systems in 2014 because of the new closed belay system we were using,” explains Donna Holder, one of the company’s owners and wife of Mike Holder. “It is called Quick Trekker."
“This system was so much safer and easier to use than other closed belay systems. We wanted to market our work and put this type of layout on other courses so they would be safe as well as keep the industry safer.”
The American Adventure Park System remains part of Historic Banning Mills which were started in 1998. The AAPS now supplements what they’ve been doing there at the conservation center, according to Holder.
“Historic Banning Mills now has the largest zipline canopy course in the world and the tallest free standing climbing wall in the world as verified by two Guinness World Records.
The way things started out, was probably an inspiration for the company and what they now do. American Adventure Systems, at first was closely tied in with Historic Banning Mills, which started up in 1998 as a 10 room bed and breakfast.
“As we grew and found out more on the history here, we knew that this was a very special and unique place,” adds Holder. “We came to the decision that this place needed to be preserved not only for the history but for the beauty and unique ecosystem of the Snake Creek Gorge.
“In 2001, we became a 501C3 conservation center. Since then have also developed a historical interpretive site and formulated a documentary and history book to tell the story of this incomparable area.”
The development has not been without challenges however. Perhaps the biggest hurdle for the Holders was the fire the struck the property in 2006. The center lost all of the main lodge and some of the surrounding buildings. The Holders had to shut the place down for almost a year as the investigation and then later the rebuild took place.
This was a very hard time for the business, but out of the ashes came a new facility and the Holders think it was better. “That was the struggle we went through with Historic Banning Mills,” adds Holder. “For American Adventure Park Systems, our biggest challenge is to get the word out regarding how safe and easy this system is to use and how cost effective it is. This system opens up adventure parks to younger participants and keeps them safer. I would also add that even moms and grandmas love the zipline systems.”
At the moment, six people work at American Adventure Park Systems. Mike Holder works closely with a safety organization called the American Challenge Course Technology Association. This organization helps to set suggested standards to keep adventure parks, team building and zipline canopy tour courses safe. The standards are high and if a course meets these and they are verified by inspections, that course is probably going to be a safer course that a family would want to participate in.
Mike is also on the ACCT inspection/ standards committee that sets those suggested standards.
Although American Adventure Park Systems is fairly new to America as well as the Quick Trekker Closed Belay System, the staff of American Adventure Park Systems has more than 30 years of experience in the industry and the Quick Trekker System has been used worldwide for over 10 years with excellent results.
Though the Quick Trekker System is new to North American, the scheme is also easy to use, very cost effective, simple to install and can be used on zipline courses and aerial adventure course with unlimited line lengths. The Holders feel that that in itself makes the Quick Trekker System a rather incomparable setup. In describing some of the ways construction of their systems and use of equipment and materials, an interesting development arises, that is that they can actually retrofit a current course or they can come in and design a course and customize that layout for the owner.
“We feel that a course needs to be unique and not a ‘cookie cutter’ type course,” says Mike Holder, who is the one to ask for specifics of construction on any of their systems. “In the end zipline canopy tours provide a different kind of hiking, one with a bird’s eye view. They are designed to provide a unique experience for participants, zipline canopy tours are eco based and mentally and physically challenging.
“We want the construction to fade into the background. Our focus is on the varied participants zipping down wire cables and walking on sky bridges and cables, these are a must for any adventure park system. Our people have over 25 years of construction experience building world record zipline canopy tours. With a concentration on providing uniqueness of design, safety and staff training, we believe our course construction will provide years of adventure fun.
“American Adventure Park Systems has built numerous small to large courses but we are especially proud to have designed and constructed the largest, continuous zip line canopy tour course in the world, as verified by Guinness World Records, as well as the largest course in the Midwestern United States.
“Safer courses are our priority. We come up with unique designs customized for your property. On top of that, our experienced staff has level 2 ACCT and level 2 supervisor ACCT credentials. We also have a patented continuous belay system for small or large courses such as the QuickTrekker.”
The company does consulting, design, construction, training and inspections, tower and platform constructions as well as suspension bridge. And as mentioned above their patented QuickTrekker a continuous belay system.
New to North America, Vertical Trek Innovations has been on the International scene for over a decade. Over 150 adventure parks and zipline canopy tour courses are currently using our patented system. The cost effectiveness and safer, simplistic system makes it a very good fit for new course construction or easy retrofits of current courses for zipline canopy tours and adventure parks.
The QuickTrekker is perhaps the most cost effective continuous belay system on the market today. No doubt making that true is the fact that the system has great simplicity and ease of use, is safer, has easy retrofits, requires less staffing for operations, supplies greater peace of mind for owners or managers, excellent parts, and can be used on both short ziplines and those of over 2000 ft in length. The tag line the outfit likes to use is Making Fun Safer.
“All our parts, made in France, are stainless steel 316I and stay untouched in the most difficult conditions such as at the seaside or in the mountains. As Robert Henri once said, ‘Good composition is like a suspension bridge- each line adds strength and takes none away.’”
“Therefore, we in turn believe that there is nothing like walking around and coming up to a very cool bridge. The crossing itself embodies adventure, wonder and anticipation. American Adventure Park Systems specialize in suspension bridge construction. Whether over a river, in the trees or part of your trail system, we can design and construct a special and unique bridge for your facility. Our Bridges, we feel are different and also like to think no one builds bridges like us.”
For those who may be a bit skittish and timid when it comes to the thought of actually taking flight by means of a zipline course, the Holders come back with the reality of the situation, that it’s likely everyone for the most part is at least somewhate scared of heights. The Holders realize that and try to make each participant understand the equipment they are using as well as show them how they simply cannot have accidental disconnects when riding the lines.
“Usually after they have done a few lines, the participant settles down and begins to enjoy the course,” explains Holder. “We also make sure they understand that there will always be trained guide with them. As far as what training we offer, both for those on a zip tour and those doing the installations, we train guides to understand and use the closed belay system as well as how to do emergency evacuations should the need to vacate a zipline arise.
“Our guides are all CPR certified, High rescue trained and go thru a Wilderness First Aid Course. All of our guides must do a mandatory retrain on all of the above every year and we do role playing during the year to make sure they are up to standards after the training.
Aerial Adventure Parks are the newest trend in the adventure park industry. Aerial Adventure Courses provide adrenaline rushes with high obstacle elements, zip lines and sky trails. Designed to provide mental and physical challenges for most all ages, these courses provide fun and competition with different levels of difficulty, usually in one concentrated area.
“We designed and constructed our patented QuickTrekker continuous belay system with safety as priority,” says Holder. “Our QuickTrekker system is sure to give peace of mind. All we want to say to anyone contemplating such an exciting investment as a zipline system is let us design and construct your fun and safer aerial adventure park.
“Our company makes fun SaferTeam Building and GPS Courses – also known as low and high ropes courses. Such developments are constructed for group scenarios designed to provide opportunities to learn better communication, problem solving and time management skills as well as learning to work with others, bonding and trust building.”
Outdoor courses use horizontal and vertical elements that range from six inches to 80 feet off the ground. Element choices are numerous and can consist of cable traverses, catwalks, rope ladders, balance platforms and ground game elements among others.
Team building challenges help participants to learn how to push through relatively safe risks, various obstacles, improve creativity and bonding as well as getting groups out and into a unique environment that increase learning and improve skills a person can take back with them into a work and home environment.
Plus, team building courses are great fun. Team building courses are an excellent addition to adventure parks or as a stand alone entity, according to the Holders. “These developments are great for corporate, church, youth and school groups as well as family fun, including here at American Adventure Park Systems.
“We advise anyone interested – because of our ability to consult design and construct power fan free falls – the POWERFAN® we may include in systems is a highly engineered machine that is able to provide the freefall adventure of your life, in safety and without needing to deploy a parachute or strap yourself by the ankle to a bungee cord.”
Technically this is a device that will safely and repeatedly control a person’s descent, dissipating the potential energy by means of a fan. The fan is driven only by the descending person’s mass and does not require an external power source. The POWERFAN enables users to make a very rapid descent while ensuring a gentle landing. It is designed for use in either a recreational or developmental environment, under the supervision of a competent operator.
The POWERFAN has been designed to conform to the relevant parts of BS: EN: 341 for rescue devices and prEN: 15567 for ropes courses. The device is also being examined by the TÜV for independent approval and POWERFAN is working towards ISO 9000 certification. There are currently three models of POWERFAN available. The PF13 for descents up to approximately 39 feet, the PF20 for descents up to 60 feet and the PF30 for descents up to some 90 feet.
Both the PF20 and PF30 models are only available as part of a license agreement. The PF30 is also available as part of a mobile unit known as the POWERFAN®PODClimbing Walls, Towers and Stair Systems American Adventure Park Systems understands the need for unique, safe and fun elements that integrate into each adventure park . Below, you will find three more products available by American Adventure Park Systems to enhance new or older facilities. Among these items are climbing walls.
Climbing walls have attracted much attention lately. With the focus not just on fun, but self discipline and endurance, climbing walls are great additions to team building and adventure courses. American “Adventure Park Systems is happy to announce that they were the builder of the tallest Free Standing Climbing Wall in the World as verified by Guinness World Records as well,” adds Holder.
“We actually specialize in large tower construction. Using natural timber wood poles to construct, our towers are not only efficient, and cost effective, but blend in very well with the eco-system of most adventure parks. From 20 to 150 ft. high and anywhere from single pole spirals to an unlimited number of poles, let American Adventure Park Systems design and construct a tower for your park Outdoor Stair Systems.
Lots of people want to participate in the zipline canopy tours. And, to get up to zip, they have to traverse quite a ways up above the forest floor. American Adventure Park Systems design and construct unique cost effective stair systems with safety and efficiency in mind. AAPS wants to make sure everyone involved knows that they are able a construct outdoor stair systems as well.
“We here at American Adventure Park Systems genuinely believe in the Quick Trekker system and all our other proven products in this exploding recreational activity and occupation,” adds Donna Holder. “It has been such a relief to us knowing that guests can’t disconnect when using the Quick Trekker system and it has opened up some of our courses so that families with younger ones can also come and do some of the exciting things available – and not just hear about big brother or sister doing such fun, adventurous activities.”