Treetop Thrill Seekers Reach New Heights
26 Apr 2022
Gina Bertucci envisioned a 'higher' purpose for the former Fields of Fire property at 715 Noank-Ledyard Road in Mystic.
Bertucci is the owner of TreeTrails Adventures, a Pennsylvania company that operates three aerial parks in that state as well as provides various services for other aerial park operators. Her company had conducted inspections for Fields of Fire, so when it became available late last year, she seized the opportunities the already developed site offered. Opening day for the season was April 15.
“More people now are wanting to go outdoors and be active outside,” Bertucci said. “And you can’t do better for visibility than being able to see us from I-95.”
Many Routes To Adventure
For its first year, the park will offer five trails over its 50 acres encompassing more than 70 different elements, which are the means by which participants travel from platform to platform through the trees.
Color codes, from Yellow to Green to Blue to Black Diamond, designate the skill and athletic level necessary to navigate the trails. The trails are self-guided, crossing cable and rope bridges of various construction and difficulty, and are designed the standards of the Association for Challenge Course Technology.
“It’s challenge by choice,” said Clay Kimmi, the on-site manager and a native Kansan whose background is in outdoor education. “You can challenge yourself at whatever level and whatever way you want to.”
Beginners can develop their confidence and climbing skills on Yellow trails, intermediate climbers will find a greater challenge on the Green and Blue trails, and the Black Diamond trails are up to 50 feet off the ground and require more technical climbing skills, balance, and upper-body strength athletic ability.
Young Kids Can Climb, too
There also is a specially designed trail for kids age 4-6 that is close to the ground and allows for guardian supervision throughout. The course is expected to open later this year.
Admission includes state-of-the-art fitted harnesses and climbing equipment, and climbers are securely connected to a cable through their time in the trees. An equipment briefing is provided, as well as a practice area.
Suggested attire is athletic clothing that doesn’t hang loose so as not to get tangled in cables and ropes, and open-toed shoes aren’t permitted. Gloves suitable for climbing also are required, but they can either be brought from home or purchased on site.
All tickets are sold for two-hour blocks: $59 for adults, $51 for children ages 7-11, and $12 for the Kid Trails. “I’s not something that takes all day,” Bertucci said. “You can just make it part of your day.”
Group rates are available, and there is a dedicated area on the site for parties, birthdays or otherwise. TreeTrails adventures also provides team bonding and team development programs for corporate clients, community organizations, students, teams, and clubs.
The higher goal of the activities, Bertucci said, is to expose more people to the fun and adventure that can be found above the ground and in the trees, no matter the age or skill level.
“It’s just not like anything else you do,” she added. “At the end of the day it doesn’t matter if you went way, way up or not,” she said. “You get off the course and say ‘I just did that.’“
Kimmi calls the experience “just good for the soul. And if you get a greater connection to nature and the planet in the process, that’s icing on the cake.”