Hannah Low at Touch of Nature

Riding the elevator -- Hannah Low, 17, of Los Angeles, rides the new “elevator” 32 feet up into the air to the top of the new l00-yard-long zip line at Touch of Nature Environmental Center. (Photo by Christi Mathis)

June 14, 2012

New high ropes elements debut at Touch of Nature

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A little nervousness quickly gave way to a huge smile as Hannah Low flew through the air at Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center.  

“It was really fun!” proclaimed the 17-year-old from Los Angeles as she climbed off of the new zip line.  She and her fellow Camp Ben Frankel counselors were among the first of many who will be enjoying three new high ropes elements recently put in place at Touch of Nature.

The new elevator, zip line and pamper pole located near the Camp II parking lot offer outdoor adventure to even more people at the camp, according to Alan Teska, interim assistant director.  

The elevator is a sort of rope and pulley system that can actually transport someone high into the trees to catch a ride down on the zip line.  This gives some people -- even those with some disabilities -- the chance to access the zip line they otherwise wouldn’t be able to or would rather not climb the tall pole.  It also creates a unique team-building opportunity as people work together to pull one another aloft.

Once atop the platform 32 feet above the earth, visitors are strapped into a harness and they are soon flying past the trees.  They reach speeds of about 20 mph as they sail along the 100-yard zip line, Travis Geske, program assistant, said.

Nearby awaits the third new element -- the pamper pole.  

Ezra Gordon, 17, of Bethpage, N.Y., didn’t hesitate a moment as he climbed the 20-foot-tall pole.  When he got to the top, the target -- a big red ball hung tethered eight feet away -- was within sight.  Then, he made a flying leap that also was a leap of faith.  He managed to hit the ball that is so high above the ground that he drew applause and cheers from his friends.

The new high ropes elements enhance the variety and inclusiveness of the outdoor adventures at Touch of Nature, Erik Oberg, Underway Adventure Program coordinator, said.  The camp’s existing high ropes course remains in use as well.

The new equipment comes courtesy of funds raised at last fall’s Buffalo Tro.  The event raised more than $12,000, with the bulk of the proceeds going toward this project and the remainder funding other enhancements at Touch of Nature facilities, according to Susan Logue, associate provost.  Pro Image of Indiana constructed the new elements with assistance from Touch of Nature and Plant and Service Operations staff and Egyptian Electric.

The Oct. 7, 2011, Buffalo Tro fundraiser drew campus and community members to the center for an evening featuring special entertainment and meat prepared on the hot coals, much as Native Americans did for centuries.   It was such a success that plans are already well under way for the 2012 event on Oct. 5.

Touch of Nature visitors ages 10 and older are welcome at the new high ropes facilities.  The equipment debuted this week to appreciative campers including children from the Eco U experiential nature camp.  

To learn more about Touch of Nature Environmental Center, visit the webpage at www.ton.siu.edu, call 618/453-1121, or email tonec@siu.edu.