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Last hurdle cleared to make zip line happen
RUMFORD -- A headline event for the Saturday's Envision Rumford's Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Festival (see page 8A) is dual 600-foot-long zip lines to carry people from near the Rite Aid street-side parking area over the Androscoggin River to a landing near the town's snow dump.
And Monday, it was even promoted statewide by local evening news on a segment by Bill Green's Maine.
The zip line committee of Jim Rinaldo, Glen Holmes, Jim Sysko and Tom Carey have been working for a year on this project. They've managed to overcome every hurdle, including gaining approval late Friday from the Dept. of Environmental Protection and earlier from the Maine Dept. of Transportation. The lone hurdle for the project remained the insurance, which was not obtained until around 3:30 p.m. on Monday.
"Running a zip line 15 feet over ground is one thing. Running one over this kind of terrain, 60 feet over water, is another," noted
Rinaldo, adding this is setting a precedent in Maine because all other zip lines only go over land. He said they were hoping to pay a stipend to use the insurance that covers Monkey See, Monkey Do, which is running this zip line. But this coverage would above and beyond, as this business does its zip lines all over land.
Carey noted, "People just don't realize all the behind the scenes work that's gone on behind this."
He said the insurance company used by Monkey See, Monkey Do found a company that was willing to insure the single-day event.
After things were in place to seek the insurance, Carey said it was a two-week process to get this project insured.
"It came at a good rate, too, which was important," he said, adding that it was Envision Rumford! that signed on to the insurance.
"It's been a lot of hard work. We've run into a lot of roadblocks but have refused to say 'no.' We've met every challenge," added Rinaldo.
Carey said, "I hope people give it a chance. Even if they don't use the zip line, go and watch the excitement."
There will be an approximate 50 foot drop in elevation. The riders will be about 60 feet above water level, but that depends on the height of the river at that time of year. With spring runoff the water can be raging, making the ride even more thrilling.
There's much work to be done in this small window of time.
On Friday, Rinaldo joked, "I'm going to tell my wife Monday, 'I'll see you Saturday!'"
Recently, the committee got permission from the Rumford Board of Selectmen do brush and trail work on the town-owned Chisholm Park Trail for the zip line event. The area, which hasn't been used for a century, is where the old bandstand stood.
Rinaldo said they needed a safer route for zip line riders to walk up or be carried up on all-terrain vehicles owned by the local ATV club to the town snow dump lot, also known as Cataract Station, after completing their ride across the Androscoggin River. He said the snow dump currently has a large amount of snow that's not expected to melt until July, which raised safety concerns about walking up it.
He said it will take two or three days to build the road, as the MDOT in Dixfield donate sand and gravel on Monday. The Town of Buckfield is donating culverts to the project.
By late afternoon Monday, Rinaldo and volunteers got a rope suspended across the river. The skidder from Kenrick's Logging, which will be used to anchor at the start of the zip line, was in place Tuesday as Sysko, a Newry engineer, and volunteers worked to get the zip line cables suspended across the river.
The Fire Marshal's Office is slated to inspect it on Thursday.
With the statewide promoting of the zip line, Rinaldo anticipates there will be more than a thousand people visiting that day.
He said there are locals who don't like the zip line idea, but it fills the bill with Envision Rumford's mission to bring people to the downtown to provide an opportunity for businesses to take advantage.
Rinaldo said several are trying to do that for Saturday, including downtown business Brian's Bistro, the River Valley Grill and the Rumford House of Pizza, all who are having specials that day.
Further, the hope is that the Waldo Street area will also benefit from all the people who will be at the end of the zip line. Gatch's will offer a special to zip liners, and the VFW will be holding a chicken dinner.
Rinaldo said the fee for zip line rides has been tentatively set at $10 per ride, or $15 for an individual to make two trips. The time will be this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., although Carey said it might be extended if there is the demand for it.
Another reason for this zip line is that this could become a preview of bigger things to come. Envision Rumford! would eventually like to see the snow dump area as a finish for a permanent 4,000-foot zip line that would extend from Falls Hill and go underneath two bridges to Cataract Station. Of course, using the town owned land here would also mean finding another location for the snow dump.
Envision Rumford's overall project is to build seven world-class zip lines totalling 14,000 feet that would launch riders from cement platforms and launch towers high along the river. They've also hired Sysko to build a zip-line mecca in Rumford in a multi-phased project.
Phase One's zip line will be two descent lines and one ascent line that will use Sysko's two-seater, patented zip line bicycle to transport people up from Cataract Station to the launch site. The zip line is tentatively called Lover's Leap, because it will take a leap to start the ride, Carey said.
Phase Two's zip line will be strung between a launch tower at the intersection of Routes 2 and 108 beside the Route 108 bridge down to the Cataract Station.
Phase Three's zip line, "which is the real wow factor to this whole thing," would travel 4,000 feet from the top of Falls Hill down to Cataract Station, Carey said.
Another zip line would travel from a launch tower right up Congress Street to Rite-Aid Pharmacy's lot and another one from there would travel to the Cataract Station.
Also envisioned is a new walkway trail along the Androscoggin River from the station, passing underneath Memorial Bridge on the library side to one of the launch towers.
Carey said the project group must currently get permission and licenses from the MDOT, the State Fire Marshal's Office, NewPage Inc., Brookfield Power and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for Phase Three's 4,000-foot-long zip line from the top of Falls Hill to Cataract Station.