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Ramblewild Sees The Forest For The Trees — And Then Some

By Lisa Green

A tree-hugger’s dream-come-true has materialized in the forest on Brodie Mountain in Lanesborough, MA.

At the same place and time, anyone who fancies a challenging adventure on the mountain will be equally delighted.

The two interests can coexist, and they do, in Ramblewild, the tree-to-tree adventure trail that’s not so much an adventure “park” as an immersion into nature, which visitors happen to experience via aerial courses that include riding saddles across a river gorge or a snowboard on a zip line. 

There’s something else that sets Ramblewild apart from other adventure parks: it’s owned by Feronia Forests, a corporation that, it says, sees the forest for the trees — and wants to see it that way in perpetuity. Rather than razing the forest for timber, Feronia chooses to offset its revenue with recreation and environmentally friendly businesses. Mostly, though, the company wants people (focus on young people) to learn about the forest as they learn about themselves.

On a preview tour of the property, a red fox dashed across a trail.

Ramblewild CEO Tim Gallagher at the top of the mountain.

“See, that’s what we want kids to see,” says Ramblewild’s CEO Tim Gallagher. “We want to give kids who don’t get to experience nature the chance to see things like this. If we can get young people interested in nature, they will become stewards of the forest.”

The goal, he says, is to get every visitor to develop an understanding, appreciation and respect for nature, and see that by coming to Ramblewild, they’re helping to preserve the woodlands, protect the wildlife and conserve energy.

But back to the adventure part: Ramblewild, which officially opened on June 21, takes its visitors off the grid (no cellphones allowed while aerial bound) while they’re flying from platform to platform. There are 135 platforms in all, located on eight separate trails throughout seven acres. There’s no electricity on the trails, either, so it’s fly-by-daylight or moonlight.

Once adventurers pay admission (prices range from $55 for a child to $69 for adults for a three-hour visit), they’re handed a safety harness and shown how to use it. Walking up the main trail, they hit a practice area where they learn the basic skills needed to negotiate the self-guided tours. Gallagher says visitors will have time to go on 3 to 4 trails in a visit; there are 12 to 15 sections per trail. Trails range from lower, beginner trails to much higher, more difficult expert courses.

Harnesses and helmets ready for a crowd.

Safety is a given; the full-body harnesses have a safety system, and everyone wears a helmet. There are staff operators on each of the platforms and others monitoring action on the ground. Those who would rather be earthbound are welcome to just walk the trails, and parents can follow their kids and take pictures from down below.

Feronia is serious about its mission to sustain forests, and sees its future in education. Its Feronia Forest Fund is a nonprofit created with the mission to connect youth with forests and their ecosystems, and the funds are being used to bring inner city schoolkids to the Berkshire woods. As an extension of its “sustainable full forestry” mission, Ramblewild leases part of the land to the owner of the Berkshire Wind turbines on Brodie Mountain. There’s also a maple syrup operation (with 110 acres of tubing and 7,500 taps), with the sap being processed at Ioka Valley Farm just down the road. Plans to install solar panels near the turbines are in the works.

The climbing wall.

Despite the 135 tree-to-tree elements, little of the property has been modified and everything on the challenge courses has been installed without harm to the trees; in fact, not one tree has been subjected to a nail or spike, thanks to an ingenious clamp system that holds up the platforms and lines.

Gallahger, born and raised in Dalton, has a background that, in hindsight, seems to have put him squarely on a trail to Ramblewild. At Hillcrest Educational Centers in the Berkshires, he ran the adventure-based skills program and was director of training and staff, and then business development, there. He had his own team-building company, and at Canyon Ranch, was director of health and healing. Now he’s training Ramblewild’s staff of 25-30, some of whom also have Canyon Ranch backgrounds.

While families, school groups and of course tourists are a target market, Ramblewild also hopes to attract other groups looking for ways to practice team-building exercises. Prior to its public opening, Ramblewild hosted several middle school groups. The kids were completely engaged with the physical and mental challenges of the courses. In fact, Gallagher was surprised that their presence didn’t create a lot of noise. It was as if they took their cue from the hush of the forest.

The kayak element.

Sounds like Feronia’s mission is working.

110 Brodie Mountain Road, Lanesborough, MA

There are no food vendors on site but visitors are welcome to bring their own and use the picnic area.


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Posted by Lisa Green on 06/23/14 at 01:47 PM • Permalink