by ELENA DURNBAUGH
A new aerial adventure park opened last Friday on the campus of Oakland University where people can experience trails, zip lines, and obstacles while guiding themselves through the trees.
TreeRunner is an aerial challenge course located at the corner of Walton and Adams on OU’s campus. After participants receive a harness and on-the-ground training and practice, they’re allowed to navigate through 60 different high-ropes, ziplines, and obstacle elements on their own. The park has three difficulty levels, five courses, and is suitable for kids and adults. No prior experience is required.
“People don’t understand what this is,” TreeRunner Director of Operation Thomas Knuth said. “It’s not just climbing and ziplining… You’re actually going out and experiencing nature while participating in an activity.”
Knuth said that one of the things that made TreeRunner different from other high-ropes or zipline courses was that it encourages people to take control of their own experience. Although staff members are always on hand to provide support if needed, the courses are all self-guided. “People learn how to use it,” he said. “They have control.” According to Greg Jordan, Director of University Recreation and Well-Being, Oakland University put out a bid in the summer of 2017 looking for vendors who could help the university enhance campus life. “Someone is going to come out of this activity exhilarated,” Jordan said. “Their philosophy about the impact of health and well-being matched our own.”
Oakland University is the fourth TreeRunner location in the United States. Other parks are located in West Bloomfield, Grand Rapids, and Raleigh, North Carolina.
Knuth said the new location would allow more people to experience TreeRunner, especially those who live east of I-75.
“I-75 is basically the corridor,” he said. “We can connect people from the eastside in a more efficient way.”
He added that being located in a population center like the Rochester area was ideal.
“Our goal is to get people to climb three, four, five times a year,” he said. “We want them to climb over and over again.”
Dennis Crane of Washington State came to the park with his grandkids, 9-year-old Nells, and 12-year-old Vanessa, and their dad. Crane said it was his first time on an aerial course but that his grandkids, who live in Birmingham, have been to the TreeRunner park in West Bloomfield.
Nells said that the family was looking for something to do while their grandpa was in town and that they thought that TreeRunner would be a cool activity. “It’s fun,” Crane said.
“There’s a little something for everyone,” said Hannah Brown, business supervisor at TreeRunner Oakland University. “Tree Runner is about the experience… It’s experiencing something so different than anything else you can do.”
The park will also offer theme nights, like glow nights and, in October, a Halloween Fest. Jordan said that TreeRunner would be partnering together with the university’s School of Music, Theatre, and Dance to hire actors for Halloween.
The park is just the latest in campus improvements at Oakland University. The school recently finished its renovation of the Oakland Center, and Jordan said that Oakland University was looking forward to starting another major phase of construction soon.
Later this summer, the university will install a fitness court outside of the recreation center.
TreeRunner is open for general admission Tuesday through Sunday. To learn more, visit Treerunnerou.com or call 248-759-5222.