Norwegian Rope Park Caters to City’s Thrill-Seekers
Published: May 25, 2011 (Issue # 1657)
All visitors must complete an induction course before taking to the trees.
Have fun, test your courage and overcome your fears: That is the motto of the Orekh Norwegian rope park that opened last weekend in Orekhovo, a settlement in the Priozersk district 60 kilometers north of St. Petersburg.
The adventure park is situated in an ecologically clean pine forest on the shores of Bolshoye Borkovo Lake. The trees in the park range from two to 20 meters in height and are connected in a variety of ways such as by rope-and-wooden bridges, rope lines, suspension bridges, suspended logs, rope ladders and zip-lines — the latter being the most popular way to get from tree to tree, but also the most daunting. Each of the six routes around the park consists of 85 stages.
The routes are of various degrees of difficulty, from children’s courses to the most challenging: The “black” route that finishes with a 200 meter zip-line suspended at a height of 25 meters. For those who are not so keen on heights, there are similar routes situated closer to the ground.
Various paths ranging from zip-lines to rope bridges enable would-be Tarzans to move from tree to tree at the park.
Despite the vast volume of wood, rope and net fixtures bound to the trees, the rope park’s organizers say they have taken great care not to damage the trees or the environment.
“All the fastenings are produced using a technology specially designed to avoid harming the trees,” said Hans Christian Anderson, one of the organizers of the park. “If one day we decide to pack up and take everything down, a day later there would be no way of telling that we’d even been in this forest.”
Safety is the park’s main concern. Visitors do not necessarily need a high degree of physical fitness or prior knowledge of climbing techniques. However, before taking to the ropes, everyone must attend an induction course that goes through the basic types of activities at the park, and instructors teach visitors how to use the safety equipment.
“All the equipment is made in Norway and brought to Russia,” said Anderson. “None of it is even produced in Russia. We constantly carefully monitor our safety equipment and we’re sure that it is reliable.”
This is the first time that such a rope park has been built in Russia, and there weren’t any local specialists who could help with its construction. The idea of a Norwegian park had been around for four years, but the project only got underway when the owner of an extreme tourism company met with a Norwegian in Moscow who told him about the adventure parks.
“We had been looking for partners who could help with a site in one of St. Petersburg’s suburbs for years when the owner of the St. Petersburg Ambassador hotel offered us a plot of land at his country club, Orekh,” said Yegor Churakov, one of the park’s organizers.
“It turned out that in Russia, we lack experience in constructing adventure parks and the Norwegians had never undertaken projects in Russia, so we assembled an international team of designers from France, Norway, the Czech Republic, Finland and Sweden.”
Last autumn, the team arrived on site in the Priozersk district and chose the trees best suited for the purpose.
“Nature itself provided us with the first trail,” said Churakov. “A storm had blown down most of the trees in the area, providing us with all the wood that we needed for the adventure park. We didn’t do any felling ourselves; every tree that was standing when we arrived is still standing today,” he said.
In Europe, adventure parks are often visited as part of team building exercises, but in Russia this activity is only just starting to catch on. The opening of the park was well attended, including by the residents of dachas in the area. While most were willing to have a go, there were already some criticisms.
“These are very unusual, difficult and interesting trails, but there is room for improvement,” said Sergei, who had traveled from St. Petersburg especially for the opening of the park. “The main problem is that you can’t leave a trail once you’ve begun. Anything could happen: You might get scared, tired or feel unwell, but there’s no turning back; you have to go right to the end of the route.”
“Moreover, there are long lines of people at each platform waiting for their turn to move on to the next trail,” he said. “I did enjoy myself, however, and I think I’ll come back to try the most challenging ‘black’ route, as I didn’t have time to do it today,” he added.