BUFORD -- A bright blue sky and mottled sunshine Friday revealed glimpses of steel cables, wood, ladders and bridges camouflaged among the thick, green canopy of the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center grounds.
Gwinnett County commissioners, several city mayors, children and county movers and shakers gathered in the cool breeze and shelter of the pavilion set up for an obviously important event.
Friday's ribbon cutting officially introduced Gwinnett County to Treetop Quest, a treetop adventure course seamlessly woven into the naturescape around the Environmental and Heritage Center building. Much more than mere canopy tours, the now familiar ziplining and obstacle course experiences cropping up all over the state, Treetop Quest combines education, entertainment and environmental stewarsdship with the fun and excitement of a canopy adventure.
All of the courses that comprise Treetop Quest were designed to have minimal environmental impact. Construction practices required no holes drilled in trees and no trees removed for course design. All of the wood used in construction is chemically untreated. Adventurers enjoy the excitement and challenge of the courses, while learning about the fascinating natural surroundings and sustainability practices.
The public/private venture, funded completely through private investment, is the first Treetop Quest project in the United States. A well-oiled partnership between Gwinnett County, the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, the United States/France business partnership and the Environmental and Heritage Center made it possible to take this project from an initial idea to Friday's grand opening ceremony. Actual construction began just in June of this year.
Luc Peyre, president of Altiplano (the parent company of Treetop Quest) addressed the crowd that gathered for Friday's festivities. Barely able to contain his enthusiasm for the project, Peyre spoke in French, letting a translator convey his sentiments in English. "This is the best place we could hope for," said Peyre of the Gwinnett location. "This is a child's dream come true, to swing from tree to tree."
Peyre thanked the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce for their help in realizing the dream adventure. "Without their unwavering support, Treetop Quest would not be possible."
County commissioners Shirley Lasseter and Lynette Howard (a former instructor at the Environmental and Heritage Center) were on hand Friday to christen the canopy adventure project, as were Chamber Vice President of Economic Development Nick Masino and Dr. Steve Flynt, Gwinnett associate school superintendent.
"This great county will continue to be the best in the nation because of things like this," said Flynt, referring to the unparalleled educational opportunity children will enjoy because of the Treetop Quest learning experience.
Friday's celebration concluded with students from Freeman's Mill Elementary School cutting a bright red ribbon to signify the official grand opening of Gwinnett's newest educational adventure.
The five courses are categorized by participant age and height, and by course difficulty. Prices range from $19 per ticket (one-hour duration for small children) to $59 per ticket (2 -1/2 hour duration, night climb). Tickets may be purchased online at www.treetopquest.com.