Construction has begun on a new $2 million adventure park attraction at Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek, Mich., called the Charles and Lynn Zhang SkyLark Ridge—the Zhangs started the fundraising campaign for the project with a gift of $1 million, which included naming rights. The three-story installation by RCI Adventure Products includes a variety of elements, such as rope ladders, suspended bridges, cargo nets, and more, as well as five Sky Rail curved zip lines. A separate structure called “Little Larks” will have the same components but scaled for younger guests under 48 inches tall.
The course will anchor to eight steel columns and have a footprint of 15,000 total square feet, rising to 36 feet at its highest point.
“SkyLark Ridge is an essential next step for the zoo and is something the entire family can enjoy to create great memories,” said Binder Park Zoo president and CEO Diane Thompson. “The important thing is that SkyLark Ridge is helping us fulfill our mission to connect people with nature and inspire them to conserve.”
Director of marketing and development Leslie Walsh said a zip line attraction at the zoo had been discussed starting in the mid-1990s, “but the timing wasn’t right then.” Judging by the enthusiasm and support for this project, she said, “the time is clearly right” for an aerial attraction now.
The zoo has raised $1.8 million to date from a handful of donors. It plans to launch a public campaign to raise the remainder of the funds for the installation.
The zoo said SkyLark Ridge will be the largest structure of its kind in Michigan, and will have a positive impact on the local and state economy by increasing visitors’ time in the area, thus increasing visitor spending on things like gas, food, and lodging. The attraction will also create additional fair-paying seasonal jobs, as staff will be hired and trained exclusively to manage the adventure park.
The experience will initially only be available to zoo guests, but the zoo plans to modify a new, separate entrance for guests to enter SkyLark Ridge as an exclusive experience. It is expected to open this summer.