Fayette County

Despite disapproval from some neighbors and threat of fines, Fayette County zipline tours draw customers

Mackenzie Leachman held on to the zip line at Boone Creek Outdoors last year, before the Fayette County business was ordered to halt the canopy tours because of zoning issues.
Mackenzie Leachman held on to the zip line at Boone Creek Outdoors last year, before the Fayette County business was ordered to halt the canopy tours because of zoning issues. Herald-Leader

At the bottom of the cliff, next to a creek, you look up and see a single figure streak across the spring sky.

He's ziplining at the Boone Creek Outdoors park in southern Fayette County. There on Saturday customers experienced the attraction at the center of an ongoing conflict involving city zoning regulators, neighbors and Lexington businessman Burgess Carey.

The city's planning department on March 11 gave Carey 30 days to remove the ziplines from his property before it starts fining him. Carey said proceeds from Saturday's zipline tours will go into a legal defense fund.

A T-shirt worn by one participant said: "Boone Creek Outdoors: Fight for Your Right to Zipline, Spring 2013."

Carey's zipline tours, which accommodated about eight people each, carried a suggested donation of $45 apiece. During the tours, participants traveled on ziplines that ran between seven platforms and four bridges. Each tour took about two hours.

The zipline platforms are built with cedar planks around hardwood trees, mainly oaks. The designs can be elaborate. One platform features natural limestone steps; another, a double deck; a third, a floating set of steps that looks as if the zipliner is stepping into an otherworldly kingdom populated with hobbits.

David Brassfield, president of S.T.E.P.S. Inc., which built the Boone Creek zipline tour — also known as a "canopy tour" because riders zipline through the tree canopy — said that the Boone Creek property "is absolutely the finest setting for a canopy tour that we have ever come across."

It's a big undertaking — like a rustic Disney World ride — and neighbors are sharply split on the wisdom of having it there.

"When Burgess started talking about this, I said, 'This is my dream,'" said Jane Snyder Harrod, who lives in Anderson County but farms close to Carey's development. "That is to let people get out here and see it — and make a little money, to fight invasive species. I hope the project will go all the way down to the river."

Harrod said that her experience of life in the country has been marred by the encroachment of Interstate 75, with its accompanying thrum of noise and light. Other neighbors might feel that intrusion less, she said, but she's nonetheless glad Carey is taking steps to showcase what's still beautiful about the area.

Neighbor Jack Hudson also stopped by Saturday afternoon to offer his support. He said that the Old Richmond Road Neighborhood Association does not speak for all the area's residents.

But Old Richmond Road Neighborhood Association President Mary Diane Hanna and her husband Lyle, who live a few miles away, said Saturday that the issue is simply that Carey is in conflict with city zoning — and that if he gets away with ziplining on his property, the city's protection of its rural area, built up over decades, will start to erode.

"He's trying to get the court of public opinion to back him up," Lyle Hanna said as he and his wife paused from planting onions and fruit trees on their well-tended acreage. "This is why you have zoning laws. They're there to create consistency."

And as for Carey's fighting of invasive species, the Hannas rip out euonymous, one of the invasive species, from their lawn; all in the neighborhood do their part against invasive plants, they said.

"We're not against ziplines," Mary Diane Hanna said. "We're just against the situation."

The board of adjustment in 2012 voted down Carey's plan for an adventure park to include kayaking, limited camping and trails for bird-watching, hiking and mountain biking. Carey is appealing the decision. Carey has operated a fishing camp on the site for more than a decade.

In February, Carey said he had scaled back his plans but was going forward with canopy tours, which he said he thought were allowed under his 10-year-old permit from the board.

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