As part of the state’s $100 million-plus Jones Beach State Park upgrade, the park opened its newest attraction, the WildPlay Adventure Park, over the holiday weekend at its West Bathhouse. Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave the opening a surprise boost by visiting the facility on July 3 and taking a turn on a 700-foot-long zip line, despite an acknowledged fear of heights.
In addition to the main zip line, WildPlay offers a range of “aerial adventure” courses, with aerial games, moving obstacles and smaller zip lines, for kids and adults. “Classic” and “extreme” courses begin at 6 feet off the ground and go as high as 60 feet, while a kids’ course is aimed at children between ages 5 and 12, and has a maximum height of 15 feet.
The courses include cargo nets, rope swings, log ladders, tightropes, swinging logs and wobbly bridges — all above the ground.
WildPlay also features a What’s to Fear jump, in which guests climb a rope ladder and meet staffers who attach them to jump lines and prepare them for free falls from 40 feet.
The facility at Jones Beach is WildPlay’s second U.S. location. The first, in upstate Voorheesville, opened two years ago. “I’m expecting the Jones Beach location to be a huge tourist, school and youth group attraction,” said Joe Fazioli, manager at Thacher Park, in Voorheesville. “It’s going to be really special.”
Five more WildPlay parks are located in Canada.
As part of a $900 million upgrade to parks across the state, Adventure Park is only one feature in Jones Beach’s makeover, which includes upgrades to the park’s energy and learning center and the debut of the 1930s-themed restaurant Gatsby on the Ocean (see box).
The $18 million energy and nature education center is being built in partnership with PSEG Long Island, the Long Island Power Authority, the New York Power Authority and private donors, and is slated to open next spring. The additions to the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center are meant to help educate the public on environmental issues ranging from energy conservation to sustainability.
“The investment will continue to boost tourism across the region, while preserving our environment and encouraging visitors to support our state’s outdoor resources,” Cuomo said in promoting the project late last year.
“We are especially pleased to support this innovative project by bringing interactive educational programs to Long Island’s youth,” said Dan Eichhorn, president and CEO of PSEG Long Island, “while preserving a beloved natural habitat.”
PSEG endorsed the energy and nature education center late last year and presented some ideas to improve the facility. Some of the exhibits and programs at the center will showcase Long Island’s ecosystems and water conservation efforts, and demonstrate how renewable power resources work.
“The building will have four indoor and outdoor classrooms,” said Suzanne Montefinise, an environmental educator at the center. One of the indoor classrooms will be a lecture hall where energy- and nature-related topics will be the focus. The outdoor classrooms will showcase interactive activities centering on marine life.
The center will also include 218 acres at the park’s west end, which have been set aside as a protected habitat for marine species.
The new nature center is being built by the Brooklyn-based nArchitects PLLC. When it is completed, it will be an 11,000-square-foot eco-friendly wooden structure, complete with solar panels to help provide for its energy needs.