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Root Farm Adventures gives 'opportunity to do anything'

Observer-Dispatch - 7/2/2018

July 01--Kids who need crutches to walk can fly.

Adults in wheelchairs can swing through the trees.

The merely out-of-shape can scale a tower wall.

And anyone of any ability can have fun while completing a personal challenge.

Welcome to Root Farm Adventures, the recreation program completed last fall at the nonprofit Root Farm in Sauquoit. The Root Farm is an affiliate of Upstate Caring Partners, the parent organization of Upstate Cerebral Palsy. The program offers a zip line, two high ropes courses, a climbing tower, a rock wall for climbing and three low ropes courses for team-building exercises. The zip line, one of the high ropes courses and the climbing tower are fully handicapped accessible; the ropes course is the first of its kind in the nation, said Executive Director Jeremy Earl.

"To give people with differing abilities the opportunity to do anything," Earl said, explaining the program's purpose. "So people of all ages and abilities have the opportunity to do anything. And why shouldn't they be able to?"

The program does also serve one practical purpose. Fees help to subsidize the Root Farm's other programs, especially equine therapy, which would become unaffordable if participants had to meet the program's actual costs, Earl noted.

Planned expansions include new tents so groups can stay overnight and, eventually, four handicapped-accessible cabins. The farm has also applied for a VA grant in hopes of starting a program that would teach veterans to climb on the tower, let them practice on the rock wall and then let them test their skills on Moss Island in Little Falls where granite cliffs rise up to 40 feet, said Adam Quigley, recreation program manager.

On a recent June day, Mike and Heather Adamo of Whitesboro came to check out the zip line and Challenger Ropes Course. Heather had been to the farm for a team-building exercise on one of the low ropes courses. "There's not much of an opportunity to do things like this. I'm happy it's here," said Mike as the couple headed up to the ropes course.

He was laughing a little while later as he finished the six-obstacle course strung between the trees on a hillside. "That was fun," he said, calling the course an "enjoyable difficulty."

He and his wife both found the rings to be one of the hardest of the six obstacles. Four sets of rings hang and participants have to move their feet through one set and grasp the other set with their hands. The rings sway wildly as participants dangle close to the course's maximum height of 60 feet off the ground.

After they finished, the Adamos mentioned that they had already run 7.8 miles that morning while training for the Boilermaker.

But the point of the Root Farm's programs is that people who can't run the Boilermaker can have just as much fun. For the zip line, participants need some neck, head and trunk control, but theoretically anyone could scale the climbing wall or try the ropes course, Earl said. On the wall, a harness system can raise and lower participants who choose to use it instead of a traditional belay.

On the ropes course, a typical harness protects those who want to use their muscle power alone to complete the course. Unlike most rope courses, participants never unhook the carabiners that hook the harness to wires, a safety measure in place to eliminate the risk that someone with developmental disabilities might unclip one carabiner before clipping a second onto the next obstacle, a lapse that could lead to a fall, Earl said.

For those with disabilities, the course's placement on a hill means the entrance is at ground level -- no climbing required. And a second, optional harness system puts a roller on an upper guide wire, letting people with disabilities pull themselves through the course. It's also used to help people who get tired or scared complete the course or return to the beginning.

Success, Earl noted, means something different for everyone and the course is designed to let everyone find success on their own terms.

Contact Amy Neff Roth at 315-792-5166 or follow her on Twitter (@OD_Roth).

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(c)2018 Observer-Dispatch, Utica, N.Y.

Visit Observer-Dispatch, Utica, N.Y. at www.uticaod.com

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