Since the inception of the Grommet Island Park and the first walk back in 2008, WPL has had an invested interest in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) research and awareness. Of the WPL family, seven employees took part in the JT walk on October 5th, which originally came to life through Bruce Thompson’s son’s battle with ALS. What started out as one team in the Hampton Roads ALS walk became the National ALS Association’s largest single day walk and fundraiser! Through the years, the JT Walk has raised over $7 million for ALS research and patient services, as well as community projects including, JT’s Grommet Island Beach Park & Playground for EveryBODY, the “Grombulance” kid-friendly medical transport for Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, and early development of JT’s Camp Grom.
Over the last 6 years more than 30,000 people have gathered at the Virginia Beach oceanfront to participate in what is now known as the JT Walk & Beach Party. The day was filled with enthusiasm and a determination to stomp ALS.
WPL was also deeply involved in the culmination of JT’s Grommet Island Beach Park & Playground for EveryBODY as well as JT’s Camp Grom.
In Virginia Beach, the latest and greatest outdoor resort phenom just opened up– literally! Up in the trees – the grand opening for The Adventure Park at the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center took place Friday, May 30th as many eager faces anticipated climbing through one of nine different ropes courses and over 20 varying levels of zip-lines. The mayor commissioned the park while standing fifteen feet above ground on the main tree platform and then bravely proceeded to be the first to climb up to what seemed to be a medium-to-difficult level course. Other dignitaries and aquarium staff soon followed his example. Guests not only came to witness the opening but also to suit up with harnesses, safety lanyards, and gloves in order to try it for themselves. The Virginia Pilot does a great job recounting this opening.
Signs mark each course with their level of difficulty, similar to a ski slope, and, as if the safety briefings and training were not enough, dozens of course assistants in orange shirts stand by ready to help. Each course links from tree platform to tree platform at various heights via steel cables, each cable segment posing various challenging elements. One segment may require a contender to balance on the end of logs, while another may present a narrow bridge to cross. Some segments comprise only a simple cable to which people can clip their pulley and zip-line for several hundred feet across the marsh.
“It’s nice to see this attraction get built so quickly,” remarked Jarrod Katzer, a landscape architect at WPL who was closely involved in seeing the project design come to completion. This isn’t the first time WPL engaged with the concept of the aerial forest park. In 2010, they teamed with EDSA and Cambridge 7 Associates, among others, to masterplan the Virginia Aquarium and Owl Creek watershed. The concept of an aerial forest park was one of many ideas put forth to the aquarium staff in the plan.
The Aquarium solicited formal proposals from reputable aerial ropes course builders. Through various connections, WPL was fortunate enough to team with Kema Geroux and Outdoor Ventures as the preferred design / build team selected for this undertaking.
WPL surveyed the seven-acre park site, and they helped Outdoor Ventures to design the park so that patrons could gain an incredible experience over Owl Creek’s tidal waterways. The family-friendly park aims to bring more aquarium visitors outdoors and to offer them a unique way to appreciate the natural environment.
This park truly is a challenging and rewarding experience for all ages and a great addition to the Virginia Aquarium and the Virginia Beach community. With so much momentum from the Adventure Park, what other compelling elements of the Aquarium’s master plan might be next?