Thursday, April 26, 2012
A proposed zipline course at Jacks Peak Park is still on the negotiating table, but it’s recently lost the backing of several key players.
County Parks Planning Manager David Lutes says the county is still in talks with Ziptrek Ecotours. Once they’ve reached a concession agreement, he says, they’ll most likely begin an environmental impact report: “It’s fairly decided we must go in that direction.”
Ziptrek CEO David Udow did not return multiple calls.
Monterey resident Matthew Sundt, an environmental consultant with no financial ties to the proposal, leans toward supporting the project, which could generate needed revenue and allow more diverse uses of the park. Parks officials say Jacks Peak is under-utilized and falls about $4,000 in the red each year.
“Unless the deed says you can’t have anything but pedestrian [uses], the county should be receptive,” Sundt says. “None of the arguments I’ve heard are strong enough or substantial enough to kill this project.”
But Mary Pendlay, president of a new group called Friends of Jacks Peak Park, worries about the construction needed to anchor Ziptrek’s free-standing platforms among rare stands of Monterey pine forest. “This is a rather frivolous use of valuable forest,” she says. “You can do [a zipline] in Toro, Laguna Seca – any other park but Jacks Peak.”
She also questions the county’s estimate of annual park users, saying a half-dozen access trails draw far more people than those who pay at the entrance kiosk.
The family that once owned the park’s core, meanwhile, has turned against the project. Talcott and Margaret Pardee Bates sold the park’s original 55 acres to The Nature Conservancy, which in turn sold it to county, around 1970. Jacks Peak Park, now at 525 acres, opened to the public in 1977.
The Bates’ son, David, says he and his three siblings considered their late parents’ visions for the park when debating the Ziptrek proposal.
“My father was extremely anxious to have a wilderness park on the edge of the city; my mother wanted to make sure it was used by the local people,” he says. “Initially we were cautiously and conditionally supportive. Over time we became opposed.”
In October 2010, County Supervisor Dave Potter traveled to Whistler, Canada with County Parks Director John Pinio for a Ziptrek demonstration. “I was surprised that the environmental educational component was as big as it was,” Potter says. “I had thought it was more of a thrill ride sort of thing.”
His opinion, however, has swung against the Ziptrek proposal in recent months. “There may be a place for it, but I don’t think it’s Jacks Peak,” he says. “It just seems too impacting on the environment.”
Potter says he’d like to explore a potential property transfer of Jacks Peak from the county to the Regional Parks District. He’s also pushing the idea of purchasing nine lots from Pebble Beach Company to expand the park.
Even if its Jacks Peak proposal falls through, Ziptrek’s got its sights on another scenic slice of Monterey County. State Parks officials are considering a separate proposal for a zipline course at Point Lobos Ranch off Highway 1. The first public hearing in the State Parks General Plan process happened April 18 at Rancho Cañada Golf Club in Carmel Valley.