The developer of a proposed zipline tour business in Minocqua is still holding out hope that his proposed project will become reality.
Josh Russart first approached the town in September 2011 with the proposal for a 2.5-hour zipline tour business to be located on three municipal parcels on the south side of Minocqua near Gun Club Road and U.S. Highway 51 — the site of a former town dump. He had also hoped for a spring 2013 opening, but said that will clearly not occur.
Russart said he still believes the project will be completed, but an important portion of the project’s financing still needs to be completed.
“We had hoped to start construction and be up and running last year. However, as we were nearing the finish line, our main investor/partner, who was providing the funding for this project, had a personal issue arise and had to back out,” Russart said. “Since that time, we have not been able to re-obtain funding for the project.”
According to Russart, “We are searching every day for individuals, investors, groups, banks ... to fund this project.”
“There is no timetable right now, as there is no way of predicting when funding may be obtained,” Russart said. “The minute we obtain funding we can proceed as plans, permits, approvals ... are completed.”
At a recent town board meeting, Supervisor John Thompson expressed skepticism the project would ever come to fruition. While board Chairman Mark Hartzheim acknowledged the project was in trouble he could not bring himself to say the project “will never happen.”
“I think there is still a chance,” Hartzheim said. “It would be a great addition to the town and to the area and I am hoping it still happens.”
Russart had his company’s consultants surveying and examining the proposed site.
Officials approved Russart’s proposed North Woods Zip Line Tours project on the condition a 10-year land lease contract could be agreed upon.
Plans include eight single ziplines ranging from 150 to 800 feet each and one dual racing zip where two can travel 1,000 feet.
One of the ziplines will be configured to take visitors over a natural body of water on the site.
The tours will be comprised of groups of up to eight people, each taking turns on a segment of zipline from one platform to the next, gathering together on a platform before moving on to the next. Seven of the platforms will be built onto existing trees.
Tour guides will expound on the ecology of the Lakeland area as the tour progresses.
Spiral staircases wrapped around existing pine trees may reach three stories high, leading to three or four 100- to 200-foot suspension bridges.
An elevated, enclosed clubhouse is also to be built for relaxation and refreshments as will a climbing rock.
Russart said he felt the site was ideal for his project due to large numbers of nature and outdoor enthusiasts in the Lakeland area.
Russart, a civil engineer, is working with architects and designers for the project.
North Woods Zip Line Tours is Russart’s first entrepreneurial project after researching ziplines and zipline parks the past several years.
Other development in area
Hartzheim said earlier the proposed deal with Russart will restrict the town from allowing any other competing business to be located on the remainder of the town’s property not being used by Russart.
“But the town will reserve the right to develop other recreational ideas there,” said Hartzheim. “I know that prior town chairman Joe Handrick had talked about possibly developing winter sledding or tubing opportunities out there. So that is something we could look at in the future once the zipline is up and is successfully running.”
With the thought of further recreational development of the former dump property in mind, the town board recently approved naming the street running through the property Adventure Lane. The street sign will not be put into place there until the zipline business is located there.
Not ready to give up
“All we can do right now is keep pushing and searching for funding,” Russart said. “I still hope to bring this wonderful tour and business to Minocqua and am doing my best to make it happen.”
Joe VanDeLaarschot may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.