| September 5, 2020 1:00 AM
Farragut State Park really has it all: Pristine lake beaches, superb campgrounds, museums, and giant adventure courses in the trees.
For three seasons, Tree to Tree Adventure Park, an aerial adventure course, has operated in the grounds – er, the branches – of the state park.
It’s the perfect set-up.
Tree to Tree started in Oregon in 2010 and opened an Idaho branch in 2018. Unlike other locations in zoos or on private land, the Idaho location is the only one in a state park.
“There’s camping nearby, there’s a ton of people coming by and [the course is] just another awesome addition to the state park with all the other great stuff that it has to offer,” said Alex Azarian, a course manager with Tree to Tree.
“It provides a different opportunity for campers or visitors to the park to experience nature. It’s up in the trees, so they get to see a different view of the park as well as do some physical activity,” said Erin McKindree, Assistant Park Manager at Farragut with Idaho Parks and Recreation.
Who says state agency and private enterprise can’t come together to create something mutually beneficial – and for visitors as well?
The arrangement appears to be one born of a simple good opportunity, but it’s also a somewhat uncommon symbiosis of state agency and private enterprise.
“We have a great relationship with [Farragut and Parks and Recreation]. They help us out,” says Jordan Dean, another course manager with Tree to Tree.
“For anyone who’s interested in the course, [Farragut] sends them out our way, gives them some information. They have our name posted everywhere. And we do the same for them.”
In turn, the aerial course helps bring more into the park through promotions, advertisements, and by adding another recreational activity for visitors and campers.
“It’s a great working agreement with Tree to Tree,” said McKindree.
“We promote each other through different activities in the park so we do our best to help each other out with our recreation opportunities.”
Visitors to Tree to Tree are visitors to the park as well, because of its location. When visitors purchase a $5 parking permit to the park they also contribute to Farragut’s revenue.
The arrangement also brings funds to other state agencies. About 3 percent of Tree to Tree’s gross revenue goes back to the state.
“It usually goes to the State of Idaho general fund, and then each agency at the start of the fiscal year gets a percentage of that allocated back to them,” said McKindree.
The relationship is part of a concessionaire agreement between Tree to Tree and the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation.
“In Farragut we have some similar, smaller-term concessionaire agreements, but not a[nother] big one like Tree to Tree,” McKindree said.
“Our agency is always looking for [ways] to provide new opportunities for recreation. Farragut is vast in its acreage and we were available to meet their needs.”
“Most of the businesses that we do for concessionaire agreements and permits provide an opportunity for the public, whether that be a form of recreation or service,” she said.
Farragut often permits firewood concessionaires, and has even worked with ROW Adventures of Coeur d’Alene – an outdoor adventures company – in the past.
In addition to meeting with and presenting for Parks officials to get approval for a permit, Tree to Tree had to show how they would protect the trees.
“As part of our natural resource plan, we like to ensure that anything that’s in our trees isn’t going to harm them or do damage,” McKindree added.
“It’s as nature-friendly as possible. We treat the trees with a lot of respect. So we do our best to make sure we are welcome guests here in the park out in the woods,” said Dean.
In addition to providing another opportunity to local and regional park visitors, Tree to Tree gets visitors from all over.
The course is popular among visitors from Alberta and British Columbia, as well as visitors from larger cities in Oregon and Washington. Although visitors have come from all other states and countries.
“And then we actually get a lot foreign exchange students, a bunch of schools that come out… and we’ve got a lot of families that are just traveling to the U.S,” said Dean.
“We still love to have locals come in and give us their take. Because Farragut’s just an awesome park to have in the community with Athol and Bayview. We get tons of locals as well… out camping out here for the weekend,” Azarian added.
“It’s a really good mix of locals and out-of-towners.”
The aerial adventure park features three adult and two kids’ courses which get harder as visitors progress from one to the next.
Courses are all up in the trees, ranging from 10 to 40 feet high (10 to 25 for kids). They feature different physical components for guests to try, including rope ladders, log bridges, rope swings, “Tarzan swings,” tightrope walks, and zip lines.
Although the courses require a little upper body strength, Azarian says the courses are geared to those who have never done it before.
“Some people think of it as a bit of a workout, but it is super fun along the whole way,” she said.
Check-in includes a demonstration of the different elements as well as of safety gear, which includes a high-quality harness and cable system, which prevents wearers from unclipping in the middle of the course.
Guests make their own way through the course, which some have described as almost like flying, but guides follow on the ground in case they’re needed.
“We do our best to make sure that nothing can go wrong,” said Dean.
Courses typically take about two hours. Children as young as six can complete the course, but so far guests have ranged from about nine to 78 years old.
“We’re game if you are,” Dean said.
Tree to Tree Idaho is open for the season Thursday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through September 20. They will remain closed for winter and hope to reopen at the beginning of their usual season next April.
If you’re going to join the birds for a workout in the trees, be sure to hit the lake after.
“Most people do,” said Dean.