BUILDING WITH ACCESSIBILITY IN MIND
bull Nelson Construction supported on the groundwork and Thayer Fellows served as the structural engineer. “The collaboration process was really just a joy,” says Phoenix’s Oates. “We had to modify as we went along, and we were able to work with each other to make changes really efficiently.” Of course, VINS’s investment in the Forest Canopy Walk was made with the nonprofit’s long-term financial stability in mind. A benefits study conducted prior to the installation’s approval by the board of trustees projected the attraction would result in approximate- ly a 62 percent increase in visitation, according to Collier. Since the attraction opened in fall of 2019 and the pandemic forced VINS to temporarily close in March 2020, “this year and next will be the true test of whether we can achieve that [visitation] goal,” he says. National Arboretum Canopy Walk (Tree-Mendous) National Arboretum, Washington, D.C. Tree-Mendous is designing a hybrid attraction for the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., that combines elements of a more traditional canopy walk with the company’s “Nature Trek” and Net-Scape netted attractions. The project, which is still in the development stage, aims to “provide an attraction that aligns with the Arboretum’s com- mitment to education, accessibility, and ^ A broad audience will be able to wander the National Arboretum’s bridge trails.
inclusivity, and offers an activity for guests of all ages and abilities to enjoy together,” says Tree-Mendous owner Gerhard Komenda. The walk will feature a series of aerial ADA-accessible bridge trails, dynamic suspension bridge trails, and a Net- Scape feature that will double as a play area and a unique learning space for outdoor educational programming. The site offers variation in elevation and scenery and is surrounded by the forests of the Arboretum. Bridge trails, which will use black locust and eastern white cedar to achieve Tree-Mendous’ signa- ture natural textured look, will crisscross over and along a natural water feature. Phase 1 of the project consists of eight ADA-accessible bridges, four non-ADA suspension bridges, 10 tree platforms, and a Net-Scape. Additional ADA bridg- es, suspension bridges, and a ground- based educational Nature Play area will be added in future phases. The attraction will be a directional through-walk. In phase 1, about 500 feet long, guests will start on the ADA bridge trail. At platform 7, they’ll have the option to take an exit ramp or con- tinue on to the open access suspension bridge trail. Bridge heights will range from 15 to 50 feet above ground. The experience will run at least 30 minutes, says Komenda. Educational and STEAM elements will be incorporated into the design to offer longer experiences ca- tered for educational programming.
is the Spider Web, a 20-foot-diameter, three-layer net suspended 43 feet in the air. Next is the Eagle’s Nest, a two-level viewing platform that includes an eagle sculpture with an 11-foot wingspan in a rebar nest. Third is the Treehouse, an emergent tower with a helical staircase that brings visitors 100 feet above the forest floor. Architect Tom Weller’s love of natural geometry informed the boardwalk’s design. “Each platform showcases a different geometric shape: a pentagon echoes the shape of a tree leaf or paw print; a hexagon reflects the form of a honeybee’s hive or the plates of a turtle’s shell; an octagon nods to the eight-legged spider’s web,” he says. The Forest Canopy Walk was a collab- orative effort. VINS staff supported Weller’s firm Weller & Michal Architects in the design. Phoenix Experiential Designs led the aerial construction with a team of riggers, while local firm Trum- ^ The VINS Canopy Walk remains level as the ground drops away, putting visitors 50 feet up with no ramps or steep climbs.
Details for the construction timeline are still being finalized.
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