Beaufort County still negotiating Okatie zip line

cconley@islandpacket.comJune 24, 2012 

Beaufort County is still negotiating with an Ohio firm that wants to develop a zipline park in Okatie.

Discussions with Direct Instructional Support Systems are focused on finding a contract term agreeable to both parties, according to county attorney Josh Gruber.

"We try not to go more than five years in a typical agreement," Gruber said Wednesday, noting the county prefers not to bind future county councils with long-term contracts.

The company is hesitant to agree to less than five years, and "we are hesitant to agree to a term longer than that," Gruber said.

A contract would need approval from Beaufort County Council. Direct Instructional Support Systems wants to build the park near the intersection of U.S. 278 and S.C. 170, Gruber said.

Attempts to reach Gary Moore, chief executive officer of the Worthington, Ohio,-based company, were unsuccessful.

The zipline attraction would be built at the Okatie Regional Park, 82 acres the county bought about 10 years ago with money from the county's Rural and Critical Lands Program. Money for the land-preservation program comes from issuing bonds approved by voters.

The proposed partnership would be the first of its kind on property bought through the Rural and Critical Lands Program, Gruber said.

"At the end of the day, we would get walking trails and certain infrastructure to open up a park any citizen can use free of charge without having to dedicate staff or maintenance to" park upkeep, he said of the agreement.

As proposed, Moore's company would spend about $450,000 to build the zipline, a welcome center and bathrooms at the park. It also would pay the county about $50,000 a year in rent.

The county would use a $175,000 donation earmarked for the Okatie Regional Park to build a parking lot, picnic area and pedestrian trails. It also would install a water line.

Under the plan, access to the regional park would be free, but zipline customers would have to pay an entry fee.

If built, the Okatie zipline park would be the second in Beaufort County. ZipLine Hilton Head opened in mid-April with eight ziplines, four towers and three "sky bridges," according to owner Roger Freedman.

He said Wednesday the park on Hilton Head Island has been "very busy" since it opened.

Gruber said Moore's company sent a new contract proposal, suggesting the firm remains interested in ironing out the contract issues.

"As long as we still have active discussions, there is always a possibility we can reach an agreement," Gruber said.

Related content:

Hilton Head officials go high and low to launch zip line park, April 16, 2012

Public-private agreements could bring Earth-friendly parks to Okatie area, March 20, 2012

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