Zipping Jeff: New zipline adventure park officially opens in Oldsmar

Following months of discussion, construction and anticipation, Oldsmar’s newest eco-tourism attraction, located at the Mobbly Bayou Wilderness Preserve, opened to the public on Friday, June 3.

Your intrepid reporter conquers his fear of heights at Oldsmar's new zipline aerial adventure park this week.

Your intrepid Oldsmar Connect reporter, Jeff Rosenfield, conquers his acrophobia, a.k.a fear of heights, at Oldsmar’s new zipline aerial adventure park earlier this week. Photo Credit: Empower Adventures Tampa Bay.

Speaking as someone who suffers from an acute case of acrophobia, better known as the fear of heights, conquering something as challenging as a zipline course can be akin to climbing the world’s tallest mountain.

Fortunately, the folks at Empower Adventures Tampa Bay realize this, and they try to make soaring above the trees as enjoyable as possible.

The company’s newest zipline aerial adventure park, located in the City of Oldsmar’s Mobbly Bayou Wilderness Preserve, officially opened to the public on Friday, and speaking for acrophobics all over the world, the experience is, in a totally non-ironic word, empowering.

“It’s no coincidence we named the company Empower Adventures,” company founder and president Joe DeRing told Oldsmar Connect prior to Friday’s ribbon cutting ceremony.

Empower Adventures guide Thomas Casey preps his group for the trek across the 200-foot suspension bridge.

Empower Adventures guide Thomas Casey preps his group for the trek across the 200-foot suspension bridge.

“We’re all about empowering people to overcome their fears, because overcoming one’s fears can be a life-changing experience. And we fully embrace that aspect of it.”

Fully embracing a challenge is a key aspect of the zipline park, which features five lines of varying lengths and heights that take riders through and above the park’s trees and brush as well as over water and across a 200-foot-long suspension bridge.

The course takes roughly two hours to complete, and once you get past any initial fears you might have, the whole experience is exhilarating, and, for some, exhausting.

“It’s scary but it’s fun,” fellow acrophobic Monica Varner of Tampa based Big City Events said after conquering the course, along with her fear, on Thursday.

“I feel like I accomplished something, and it’s great for team building. I would definitely do it again.”

This acrophobic reporter, who has spent his life avoiding roller coasters and would never even consider parasailing or skydiving, conquered the course not once but twice this week, meaning I heard the phrase “zipping Jeff” at least 10 times in two days as I prepared to launch into the great wide open.

And despite my fear, I must say the adventure, though harrowing at times, was made much easier thanks to the reassuring direction of the company’s crew of competent guides.

“Our guides are Empower Adventures,” DeRing said. “They are the face of the company and they make the guests feel safe and comfortable.”

The Empower Adventures crew pose with Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis during the opening ceremony for the city's new zipline aerial adventure park.

The Empower Adventures crew pose with Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis during the opening ceremony for the city’s new zipline aerial adventure park.

“We realize how important they are to the experience, and that’s why we hire the most qualified candidates and make sure they are expertly trained to handle any challenges they may face.”

During the ribbon cutting, which was attended by a large group that included Congressman Gus Bilirakis and Pinellas County Commissioner Dave Eggers, Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis spoke about the newest addition to the city’s list of attractions.

Drew Graef comes in for a landing on one of the five zipline runs at Oldsmar's new aerial adventure park.

Drew Graef comes in for a landing at Oldsmar’s new zipline aerial adventure park.

“A couple of years ago, our City Council had a vision of eco-tourism and bringing people to the City of Oldsmar,” Bevis began. “And last Friday, and then again yesterday, I got to see the three dimensional version of it right here with Empower Sports, and I’ve gotta say, riding this zipline is absolutely incredible.”

“I rode it with some people who had some fears, and like Joe mentioned, it helps you overcome those fears,” he continued. “You stand at the edge, and you just gotta believe and you gotta have faith.”

Bevis went on to say he understands there has been some blowback from the public about the park being built at the preserve.

But he believes the fears of having some sort of overcrowded theme park smack dab in the middle of the city will eventually prove to be unfounded.

“This is about ecotourism and showing and sharing the experience,” he said. “We got a little pushback, but the thing is, we want to share this with everybody.”

“You can never make everybody happy, but I think when people see this and experience it, see the fish and birds and other wildlife that populate the preserve, it will prove to be much ado about nothing.”

Clearwater's Courtney Campbell Causeway can be seen in the distance from the top of one of the zipline park platforms.

Clearwater’s Courtney Campbell Causeway can be seen in the distance from the top of one of the zipline park platforms.

With the zipline park now open, the company will turn its attention to completing the incoming aerial adventure park, which will feature bridges, obstacles, and team-building exercises.

That aspect of the park is expected to open this summer.

For more information on Oldsmar’s zipline park, including reservations, prices, and frequently asked questions, visit Empower Adventures Tampa Bay’s website or Facebook page.

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