Caverns unearths long-range master plan |

Caverns unearths long-range master plan

Post Independent Photo/Jim Noelker

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Imagine riding on a coaster that zig-zags down Iron Mountain on a fixed track at speeds approaching 50 mph.

Or sitting on a seat that’s suspended by a cable, sliding down a line as your feet dangle over the treetops below.

These are just two of the coming attractions proposed in Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park’s new long-range master plan.

“This is an answer to having all of our customers here this year and what they’d require to keep them busy all day,” park co-owner Steve Beckley said. “So we sat back and said, ‘What kind of attractions could we have without being too commercial or Disneyland-ish?'”

That’s when they came up with rides and attractions that would take advantage of the spectacular views from atop the tram.

The coaster is similar to an alpine slide, but instead of racing down a slide on a wheeled sled, the cars would be permanently attached to the track, which is actually made of tubes. The rider will be buckled in, so there’s no danger of falling out and getting hurt, a problem sometimes associated with alpine slides.

“Think of a roller coaster,” tram and restaurant co-owner Chuck Peterson said. “It’s designed for all ages.”

Sophisticated brake system

The coasters also will be equipped with an automatic braking system so the rider can just sit down and start coasting.

“The braking systems are very sophisticated,” Peterson said. “It’ll brake when going around curves.”

According to the preliminary plans for the coaster, riders would get into a little one-person car at the ride’s starting point behind the gift shop, coast down, hit two switchbacks as they go, then glide down the rest of the track. Once the ride is over, they’d be pulled back up to the top mechanically.

The exact route hasn’t yet been determined.

The coasters are built by three different manufacturers, all in Germany. If built, the alpine coaster would be the first of its kind in the United States.

Peterson, who designed the Glenwood Caverns Tramway, said the alpine slide would require a minimal amount of tree removal and little ground disturbance because the track is raised off the ground a few feet.

Beckley said the cost of the alpine coaster is not yet known because he’s still in negotiations with the three manufacturers.

The other ride, called a zip line, would basically consist of two towers and a cable with a three-person seat on which riders would slide down the cable above the trees. That ride would also bring the riders back up as they overlook the Colorado and Roaring Fork River valleys.

Beckley said if the Garfield County Commission gives its approval to the master plan, the zip line could be built this spring and the alpine coaster could be put in during late summer or fall.

Ropes course and

amphitheater planned

The alpine coaster and zip line are just two of the additions being eyed for the park.

Other amenities included in the master plan include a ropes challenge course, a climbing wall and a 165-seat amphitheater that would be used for educational shows ” such as a science show and a birds of prey show ” and for concerts.

“It would be very similar to a Red Rocks type of thing,” Beckley said of the amphitheater.

The amphitheater would be built just below the main entrance of the cavern above Exclamation Point (the geological feature, not the restaurant) with stadium seating and a stage that would be built just above the steep northern wall of Glenwood Canyon.

“The stage area will appear to be floating over the canyon,” Peterson said.

He guessed that the amphitheater could be built by the summer of 2005.

For the bird shows, the caverns would also add a falcon rookery and possibly even include a sanctuary for injured birds, Beckley said.

Snowshoe rentals available now

This summer, guests will also be able to get photos of themselves inside the caves or on old-fashioned props. Like those at rafting companies, the photos will be available for guests before they head back down the tram and off the mountain.

Other additions planned for the caverns’ main building ” called Beckley Plaza ” is an expansion of the gift shop and a covered pavilion where guests can stay out of the sun, rain and wind. The pavilion, which is tentatively planned to be 28 feet by 52 feet, will be built right behind the gift shop inside Beckley Plaza. It will have a wind guard and picnic tables where people can eat or just rest.

A new addition to the caverns that’s already available to guests is snowshoe rentals. Once visitors get to the top, they can rent snowshoes for $5 a pair at the gift shop. From there, guests can hike above the caves, or even foray into the Flat Tops.

The master plan should go in front of the Garfield County Commissioner in the next few weeks.

“Our goal is to try to have it done probably by April,” Beckley said of the plan’s approval.

Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511

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