ACCT 2024 Conference and Expo: Evolution is Afoot


Adventure Park Insider Magazine—Oklahoma City, Okla., March 5, 2024—The indications of evolution for the industry and its trade association were everywhere during the 34th Annual Association for Challenge Course Technology International Conference and Expo, held Feb. 22-25, 2024, in Oklahoma City, where 665 registered attendees took part in educational workshops, training sessions, networking events, and a trade show with 51 exhibitors.

It was Melissa Webb’s first conference as ACCT executive director after running the event for several years as ACCT’s events director. She was named as ED in August. A theme of increased transparency on the association’s part was felt throughout the conference, and calls for increased collaboration and cooperation were heard during many of the workshops and on the trade show floor. 

One example of greater transparency was a session titled “Fatality: A True Story,” presented by ERi’s Mandy Stewart and Todd Domeck. They detailed a 2011 incident on an ERi zip line installation in Hawaii that resulted in the death of contractor, Ted Callaway. Stewart and Domeck discussed the standards that were followed during construction, the issues with how those standards were developed, the ensuing criticism of ERi and its leaders from within the ACCT ranks, and the resulting changes to the standard, among other revealing details of the incident’s aftermath. They thanked Webb for green lighting the presentation, and the packed room gave both Webb and the presenters standing ovations.

Stewart and Domeck concluded that the industry should be more open to discussing incidents and near-misses so that everyone can learn from them and make it easier to mitigate safety issues. 

Operators, especially, called for more collaboration among themselves and were also critical of how vendors have historically been guarded in sharing best practices. In a workshop about collaboration, for example, an executive from a multi-park company compared the aerial adventure industry to the climbing wall industry, saying the latter is “infinitely more collaborative.” 

The various workshops with ACCT leadership showed that the association is interested in hearing more from its membership, especially after the most recent draft standard was scrapped after it received an unprecedented number of comments. The standards-writing process is being revisited as a result, with several changes in the offing. 

This was addressed during a workshop led by the ACCT Accredited Procedures Task Force. Perhaps the most critical goal is to get more input, and from a broader range of affected parties, earlier during the process. Another goal is to ensure greater balance among the draftees. The last draft attempted to achieve balance across three categories: producers (builders and vendors), users (operators), and general (everyone else). However, most of the drafting was done by engineers (general) and producers, with little input from operators.

Other ACCT programs that have been in the works for years are gaining traction, especially Operation Accreditation. There are now 23 accredited operations—nearly half of which are in Singapore, which speaks to the ACCT’s international reach—with more in the pipeline. 

During the awards dinner on the final night, Leigh Carruth was recognized with ACCT’s highest honor, the Critical Link Award, for her decades of dedication to coordinating the “yellow hats” crew of volunteers that help during the conference. As her family joined her on stage, she said she never thought she could be considered for the Critical Link because most of the other honorees have been technical experts. “I’m so grateful to be a part of this family and to wear this hat,” said Carruth. “I’ll wear it until the end of time if they’ll let me.”

French Broad Adventures owner and ACCT board chair Korey Hampton was recognized as Volunteer of the Year for her guidance and hard work during the executive director search. She was also re-elected to the board of directors. 

Community Service Awards honorees were Dick Hammond, Lauren Stover, Kyle Hansen, Ruthie Rivers, Matt Marcus, and Carina Surface. 

Lauren Stover and Alicia Bourke were elected as new board members.


About Author

Dave Meeker is the senior editor for Adventure Park Insider. He has a background in marketing, public relations, and writing in the mountain resort industry. Before joining the team at API, Dave was the marketing director for Mount Snow in Vermont. What better way to try and conquer a slight fear of heights than to work at a magazine that covers adventure parks? He couldn't think of one.

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