The Heritage Museum and Gardens in Sandwich, Mass., has said it will seek a special permit from the town to operate its aerial adventure course, which has been closed since August 2018. Four neighbors filed suit against the museum in 2016, claiming the adventure park drew noise and traffic to the neighborhood and caused their property values to decline. The judge agreed, and also ruled that the original operating permit issued by the town was unlawful because the adventure park didn’t meet the educational components required for zoning exemption.
Heritage said it will not appeal the judge’s ruling, but instead plans to file an application with the town of Sandwich to seek a special permit from the board of appeals to operate the aerial adventure park. The previous permit was granted based on the adventure park’s classification as an educational exhibit. Heritage aims to reclassify the attraction as an outdoor recreational facility.
James J. Killion, vice chairman of the zoning board, said that an outdoor recreational facility is an allowed use under the guidelines of the bylaws governing special permits. “Because the adventure park already operated for two years, both sides will be able to present real facts—such as traffic counts and other numbers—to the board,” Killion told The Sandwich Enterprise. “Often, we just hear conjecture about what might happen.”
The neighbors are once again being vocal in their opposition to Heritage trying to reopen the adventure course. In response, the museum’s new CEO, Anne Scott-Putney, published a letter to the editor in The Sandwich Enterprise “correcting misinformation” about the adventure park. She made clear it is not an amusement park, as detractors claim, but a “challenge course” as defined by the state of Massachusetts.
She also acknowledged the ongoing animosity. “We are aware that there is still bitterness about how the Adventure Park was originally permitted. That’s why we want to do things better and do them right. We want to continue to keep communication productive and open with our community and our neighbors, and work to address their concerns in our plans,” wrote Scott-Putney.
Heritage has conducted meetings with neighbors, including one at the museum in late March that attracted more than 50 people, and is having ongoing discussions to address concerns and map out a way forward. A date for the hearing with the town has not been set.
The Adventure Park at Heritage Museum and Gardens is operated by Outdoor Ventures Group. The park drew 35,000 climbers in 2017, and projected as many as 50,000 climbers in 2018, according to reports.