Ziplines Unzipped

Exposing the underside of ziplines…

Is there a secretive plan underway to develop your local nature area?

I did this illustration for my Federation Forest Project. We were trying to promote meaningful nature connections for children.


Do you live in a community with a natural area…a place to escape the asphalt-covered and plastic-wrapped world? Somewhere close to your neighborhood, a peaceful place with trees and birds where you can go on a moment’s notice and get a quick dose of Vitamin N?


Ziplines are on the way

Your nature area may be targeted for development, and you may not even be aware of it.

Canopy zipline installations are being constructed in community parks and nature areas all across the country, and many people are being caught unaware—not even hearing of the plans until they are essentially done-deals.


West Seattle stopped a zipline plan

In my own neighborhood in West Seattle we were surprised last summer to learn of a Seattle Parks Department plan that had been in the works for over a year to develop Lincoln Park—a magical place of towering firs and cedars—with a zipline right in the middle of the remnant forest. Lincoln Park is considered by many to be the crown jewel of Seattle Parks—a place where you can wander through quiet forested paths and enjoy sweeping views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains.

When West Seattlites heard about the plan, we were furious.

Luckily, we were able to move fast and organize an opposition. At a community meeting of over 200 people, only one person spoke in favor of the plan. It only took one day for the Parks Department to announce they were shelving the plan for Lincoln Park. But, apparently they are still considering developing other parks with ziplines.

In many other places around the country, people are not so lucky. They either didn’t hear of the plan until it was too late, or were unable to convince their local officials of their opposition.


“Hey! Ziplines are fun. Geez, you tree-huggers drive me crazy! You’re always against change and against fun! You care more about a few birds and bugs than you care about people!”

Not at all.

A true appreciation for nature is looking closely—not just taking a thrill ride.















I believe that people need nature in their everyday lives. My concern is not just for plants and animals, it’s also for people—especially children who need daily exposure to nature—and for future generations. They will be living in a very different world where nature will be a lot harder to find than it is now. We should preserve as much as we can for them. They are going to need it.


8 Reasons to think twice about ziplines


1. High-Cost/Low Return

Only wealthier people will be able to afford zipline admission price. Many communities that are struggling with budget woes will be seduced by the idea of easy money from ziplines, but in West Seattle’s Lincoln Park, the city was only to receive a tiny sum in exchange for selling off the rights to a rare, prized nature park to a private company.

2. High-Impact for wildlife

The tree canopy is often a last refuge for birds and other creatures. When we extend our footprint up into the trees, we are intruding into one of the last places many species can find the habitat they need. When ziplines are installed, areas are cleared of trees and understory, habitat is fragmented, and fences are built.

3. High-Impact for people

Noise, crowds, parking congestion. Lots of screaming. Everyone screams as they zip.

4. Only for a select few

Sure, they’re fun, but only for young, able-bodied people. What about older people, the disabled, or children too young to ride?

5. Not a true nature experience

Zipline development is eco-tainment masquerading as a nature experience. It’s more of an amusement park experience than a true connection with nature.

6. Not a challenge course

True ropes courses or challenge courses are about problem-solving and group cooperation. Ziplines are simply hooking up to a device and letting go. It’s a thrill ride, not a challenge course.

7. Not what we should be leaving to future generations

In the coming generations, people will be living in more crowded communities and their opportunities to travel to distant nature parks may be much more limited than what we enjoy today. We need to employ foresight to leave them the nature they will need—close to where they live. Nature parks were left to us, and we have the responsibility to preserve the legacy for others.

8. Planned in secret. Makes you wonder why, doesn’t it?


4 easy things you can do to help preserve your natural area

1. Be proactive. Contact your local Parks Department or nature area and ask them if they are considering a zipline.

2. Form a Social Media page devoted to preserving your natural area—if there is a zipline plan in the works, make it known to others.

3. Form a Friends Group

4. Promote true connections with nature in your community. Visit your nature area, take photos, share with friends.


What do you think? Have you had an experience with a zipline proposal in your favorite nature area?