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Raging river


The SandRidge Sky Trail is among a litany of new attractions transforming the Boathouse District along the Oklahoma River.

Clifton Adcock March 6th, 2013

Eighty feet above ground, as a 30 mph wind whipped around her, Sherry Andrusiak began to walk the plank. With the Oklahoma River before her and Oklahoma City’s downtown skyline to her back, she inched out onto the wooden beam jutting from the metal frame of the SandRidge Sky Trail.

SandRidge Sky Trail
credit: Georgie Read

Hanging tightly on to the safety harness firmly attached to the rail above her, she lingered a few seconds on the plank, trying to keep her balance against the unrelenting push of the wind before going back to the platform of the sky trail. She smiled broadly.

“It’s keeping with the sports aspect of what we do, in that people are able to accomplish things they never thought they could,” said Andrusiak, public relations director for the Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation.

The SandRidge Sky Trail, located just east of the Devon Boathouse, features six levels of suspended ropes courses that are likely to pose a challenge for even the most surefooted. It is just one of several attractions scheduled to open Saturday at the Boathouse District. Other openings will include Sky Tykes, a much smaller suspended-ropes course for children; an interactive playground; and other features located at the foot of their taller counterpart.

Introductory tickets for the Sky Trail will be $15 for adults and $10 for children. Rowing classes and children’s rowing programs also are available.

The Sky Trail is the tallest attraction of its kind in the world, said John Riggs, director of operations for the Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation.

Other marquee additions are in the works. Within a few weeks, construction is expected to wrap up on the Boathouse District’s connection to the Bricktown canal and walkway. By Memorial Day, the Sky Trail is slated to include a 72-foot enclosed aluminum slide and a PowerFan free-fall mechanism to allow visitors a quick descent.

And by summer, a 700-foot zip line spanning the river from the top of the Sky Trail also should be complete.

“Everything we’ve done in that area has been geared toward active play, keeping everyone active and moving,” Riggs said. “That’s what we’re all about here.”


Health and wellness
Many of the improvements and attractions, such as the playground — made possible through a donation from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma — are thanks to private funding. In the future, a planned children’s pavilion will be funded by SandRidge.

Sherry Andrusiak on the sky trail
credit: Clifton Adcock

Some of the district’s additions include $57 million of MAPS 3 money that had been set aside for river improvements. Lighting on the river racecourse, paid for through MAPS 3, is likely to be completed by late April. A $35 million whitewater raft facility, also covered by MAPS 3, remains in the planning stages.

The Oklahoma River has come a long way from the days when the section of the South Canadian River south of downtown was barely more than a sandy ditch, said Mike Knopp, executive director of the Boathouse Foundation.

“I don’t know that we would have anticipated it could have come so far,” he said. “What we saw was an opportunity to be truly world class at some thing.

The community has really gotten behind that. We as a community are committing to improving our health and wellness and quality of life.”

What began with the construction of Chesapeake Boathouse in 2006 and the completion of the Devon Boathouse in 2009 was followed by the river being designated as an official U.S. Olympic and Paralympic training site.

Two additional boathouses — one for the University of Oklahoma and another for the University of Central Oklahoma — are in the planning stages and slated for sites along the river just south of the Devon Boathouse. Construction for the UCO boathouse is expected to start this year.

“It’s exciting,” Riggs said. “I’ve been in Oklahoma City a long time, and I’m a native Oklahoman, but there’s never been a more exciting time.”


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