Dave Zenk, director of the Metroparks of the Toledo Area, doesn't think the park system is going out on a limb in contracting with a nationally-known treehouse expert in branching out to have a "treehouse village" in the future on park-owned land.
The Metroparks commissioners gave the go-ahead Wednesday to accept a proposal from Nelson Treehouse and Supply to develop detailed plans, including blueprints, materials, site plans, and specifications, to create a treehouse village in Swanton.
The company, which is owned by reality-television star Pete Nelson, a well-known treehouse builder, is to be paid $56,650 for their services to have a network of structures and platforms suspended from maple and oak trees in a wooded area on Waterville-Swanton Road near Oak Openings Preserve.
The treehouses would be available to be rented for overnight stays by individuals and groups, including those participating in park programs.
Mr. Zenk said the treehouse concept fits into the Metroparks's emphasis for connectivity and attracting visitors by promoting the area's natural resources and attributes.
"In order for us to reach a broader segment of the community we have to continously be aggressive in pursuing opportunities that can connect people and place them into nature," he said. "Having overnight accommodations in a well-designed treehouse represents one of those opportunities. I see that being no different than placing a person in a kayak on the river or mountain biking on a single track trail. These are all experiences that can connect people to nature."
Mr. Nelson is the host the television show “Treehouse Masters” on Discovery Channel and Animal Planet. He and his team of carpenters and architects have constructed elaborate treehouses throughout the United States and other countries.
Two company workers - lead builder Daryl McDonald and architect Daniel Ash, went to the proposed site Feb. 28 and March 1 with Metroparks staff to provide their professional assessment for designing the village. The pair even flew a drone above the trees to get a birds-eye view of area.
"They basically laid out their vision for the village based on our comments and what we want to accompany the project. We gave them our overall vision for the site and the type of facilities we would like to include. They hand selected trees for each of the facilities," said Emily Ziegler, Metroparks director of planning.
The woods, which is part of nearly 500 acres in the village of Swanton and Fulton County acquired by the Metroparks in 2014 and 2015, was selected for the future tree village. The property, which was owned by the Cannaley family, includes two residences, pole barn, equestrian stables, and indoor riding arena.
The Metroparks' vision for the treehouse village includes raised platforms attached to trees for tent-camping and separate house-like structures with electricity and electric-heat and potentially compost toilets. The above-the-ground structures would have two, four, and six-person suites. The common area platform or treehouse in the village would provide a water station with a water fountain and bottle filler.
Ms. Ziegler said the three tent platforms and suites would be within a five or 10-minute walk of the pole barn on the property that is to be refurbished into a facility for Metropark services and programs.
Plans call for the building to have restrooms and showers. The facilities are being added to support a nearby mountain-bike trail near the North Fork of the Wabash Cannonball Trail and park programs.
If the Metroparks proceeds with the treehouse village, the platforms, structures, and other facilities would be built by park staff following plans provided by Pete Nelson. A timetable for construction has not been determined but the structures likely would be built in phases as funding becomes available, Ms. Ziegler said.
The costs for the structures would vary depending on size and details. The cost range of the largest structures would range between $100,000 and $150,000, park officials said.
Contact Mark Reiter at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6199.
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