‘Karate Kid’ actor’s father plans Ad’k zip line

The father of “Karate Kid” actor Ralph Macchio wants to build a 3,500-foot-long zip line ride that would run from French Mountain to his tourist ranch in Lake George.

The Bear Pond Zip-Flyer, proposed by Wild West Ranch owner Ralph Macchio Sr., would be the first commercial zip line of its kind in the Adirondack Park. It’s currently being reviewed by the state Adirondack Park Agency and by town planning boards in Lake George and Queensbury.

“It’s been working through the approval process for a number of months,” said Glens Falls attorney Jonathan Lapper, who’s representing Macchio.

The zip line project includes construction of a launch platform and a 34-foot tower near the top of French Mountain, which Macchio owns, a landing area and 34-foot tower on his ranch property at the base of the mountain and four cables connecting the towers. It also involves clearing a swath of trees at the top of the mountain to provide enough clearance for people riding the zip line.

Riders would be driven to the launch platform on the mountain using an existing road. Wearing a harness that’s hooked to the cables, the rider would zip across the treetops at a fast speed, being pulled down to the base of the mountain by gravity. The ride would have a vertical drop of about 700 feet.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Lapper said. “It would support the existing hotels and motels to just have another tourist attraction in Lake George.”

An application for the proposed zip line was submitted to the APA in October. The agency issued a Notice of Incomplete Permit Application in November. Among other things, it asked for additional information about how the zip line would operate, any improvements planned to the road up the mountain and for specifics on the amount of tree clearing that’s proposed.

The project has generated some concerns among nearby landowners and others. David King, the president of the neighboring Lake George RV Park, sent a letter to the Lake George Planning Board in December saying the zip line would create visual and noise impacts for hikers who use a trail up French Mountain, and that it would mar the aesthetic views of French Mountain from locations throughout the town.

Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky has also raised concerns about stormwater management issues and increased commercial use on the road that goes up the mountain, which has been the subject of a legal battle in the past.

“Land use activities from the property have already resulted in visual impacts to the community from the current notch in the ridgeline and would only increase from the proposed project,” Navitsky wrote in a Dec. 3 letter to the planning board.

Questions have also been raised about deed restrictions, agreed to by a prior owner, that would prohibit the construction of amusement rides on the ranch property.

Lapper said he expects the deed issue “will work itself out,” although he didn’t go into detail. As for some of the other concerns, he said they will be addressed as the review process continues.

“There are always conditions, mitigating measures to try and address issues that are raised,” Lapper said. “This won’t affect anyone’s view of Lake George. It’s a view of French Mountain, but all you’re talking about are four cables, and one structure at the top and one at the bottom to hold the cables. It’s not like a chairlift at a ski resort.”

Lapper said the APA has required a visual impact study to be performed. Conducted by the LA Group, the study found “there will be limited amount of change in character of the view, and limited impact on the public.”

Macchio is hoping to start construction this spring so the attraction could be open by the summer. In addition to the zip line, the $1.5 million project also involves construction of an outdoor ampitheather, retail shops and additional parking.

Zip lines have been increasing in popularity, particularly in resort areas, across the country in the last few years. Since 2001, the number of zip line rides built in the U.S. has soared from 10 to more than 200, according to a May 2012 article in the Los Angeles Times.

There is one commercial zip line currently in operation in the Park, Adirondack Extreme in Bolton, which offers a series of smaller zip line rides as part of a course.

The Olympic Regional Development Authority proposed building a zip line at the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex several years ago. It was approved by the APA, but the project was later shelved. At a meeting last month, ORDA board member Ed Weibrecht suggested revisiting the idea and offering zip line rides at all three of the authority’s ski centers: Whiteface, Gore and Belleayre mountains.

Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or cknight@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.