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Mile-long zipline adventure opening in Saluda

Sara Bell points out one of the zipline segments. Sara Bell points out one of the zipline segments.

SALUDA — A Saluda couple who run Green River Adventures are set to open the longest, steepest zipline adventure park in the Eastern United States.

Tim and Sara Bell plan a grand opening ceremony on May 24 of The Gorge, a zipline adventure of more than a mile that will carry riders down the scenic Green River Gorge.
"We're really pumped up. It's very exciting," Sara Bell said. The owners say the attraction will bring 25 new jobs to Saluda.
"This is one of the most ambitious zipline projects we've ever worked on," said Brad Carey of Challenge Design Innovations, the Pineola, N.C., company that is building the zipline system for the Bells.
"It has a lot of elevation change," said Imatt VanDenBeldt, another CDI employee.
"It won't be for the faint-hearted," Carey added, "but it's very safe."
The park will include 11 zipline segments snaking through the old-growth treetops down the Green River gorge, plus an aerial skybridge and three rappels — straight-down drops from platforms..
In all, the park will take customers more than a mile —about 6,500 lineal feet — dropping 1,100 feet in elevation. Each rider will sit in a harness that slides under thick cables from treetop platform to treetop platform high above the ground. The harness will have an automatic braking system to slow the rider on the approach to each platform at the end of each zipline.
A ride down the gorge will cost $89 for adults and $79 for youngsters aged 10 and 11. Children must be at least 10 to ride and weigh at least 70 pounds. Adults must weigh no more than 250 pounds.
"We have an 85-year-old resident of a nearby retirement home who wants to be our first person down the park," Sara Bell said. "It's on her bucket list.
"We're really happy that our contractor has been very conscientious about the environment. He's cut tunnels through the tree-top vegetation so that very few trees had to be removed. We have an arborist who has been fully involved with that. Riders will have terrific views of the mountains, the gorge and acres and acres of rhododendrons below."
The Gorge project will cost more than a million dollars, with the Bells carrying most of the cost. They are awaiting word on a federal community block grant application for $250,000 to help with the cost.
The Bells own 1.4 acres of land at the top of the park site, where they are finishing a starting lodge and 120 acres down to the bottom of the gorge.
They started Green River Adventures seven years ago, providing river kayaking tours.