Janesville42.4°

Canopy tours, zip lines at issue for neighbors

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Kayla Bunge
April 22, 2010
— A Chicago businessman wants to build an adventure park where thrill-seekers whiz through the trees on a zip line.

The town plan commission and town board gave him the go-ahead, but city officials and neighbors in Lake Geneva are trying to stop him from getting too close to an adjacent cemetery and subdivision.


Mike Goril plans this fall to open Lake Geneva Canopy Tours on 100 acres at County H and County NN. The property is a former gravel pit.


The proposed park includes canopy tour lines, an aerial ropes course and a ground ropes course. It also includes hiking trails and a trail for maintenance vehicles and equipment.


Tours would take two to eight people, accompanied by two guides, through the forest canopy. Riders would travel through the trees and learn about the local ecology and history. Tours would last about two hours.


Goril has included a 150-foot buffer around the property to keep it isolated from neighboring properties.


“It wasn’t required, but it’s a good-neighbor practice,” he said.


The property abuts Oak Hill Cemetery and is close to a subdivision in Lake Geneva. City officials and neighbors are concerned the zip line business would encroach on the cemetery and houses nearby.


Sturges Taggart, treasurer of the cemetery commission, is concerned that the business will disrupt funerals, visitations and quiet reflection. He has asked the city for support in securing a larger buffer zone between the proposed adventure park and the cemetery.


“People bought these plots to have solace for eternity,” he said. “I don’t think it’s fair to put a recreational activity center next to a cemetery.”


City Administrator Dennis Jordan said the city this week sent a letter to the county asking it to review the proposal.


“The Smart Growth plan has areas outlined for amusement. This property is not one of them,” he said.


The county zoning committee approved the project in March, and the county board was expected to sign off on it at its meeting tonight.


Alan Homan, who lives about 600 feet away from the property in a nearby subdivision, is concerned not only with having a 45-foot zip line tower in view of his house but also with having people screaming as they fly through the trees.


He’s worried the business will disturb people attending funerals or visiting loved ones buried at the cemetery.


“(The owner) says he will ask his patrons to be respectful,” Homan said. “What does that mean? You have to keep your screaming to a minimum? It’s like going to a stock-car race and asking drivers to put mufflers on their cars.”


Goril said the canopy tours are relatively quiet and the trees absorb a lot of the noise people might make. He said vehicles speeding down Highway 12 make more noise than the zip line tours.


He added that he would ask tour-goers to be respectful when they are near the cemetery, and he would delay tours during graveside services.


“We don’t intend to be a disruption to the neighborhood,” he said.


Goril said his business would bring a few dozen jobs and boost tax revenue.


“There are a lot more pluses than there are minuses,” he said.



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