RUMFORD — Zip lines came to Rumford on July 4, offering residents a glimpse of a high-flying business plan that could draw thrill-seeking tourists to town.
For $5 a ride, dozens of residents donned harnesses and clipped into the zip lines, which ran from the Hannaford parking lot down to Hosmer Field. Over the course of six hours on Independence Day, the zip lines raised $1,535; insurance coverage for the event totalled $1,658, according to Envision Rumford, the local business group that organized the rides.
Although the high-adventure setup lost money, the rides succeeded in introducing the concept of zip lines to the Rumford public. Envision Rumford has long-term plans to rig 14,000 feet of zip lines running over Pennacook Falls and under the Memorial Bridge.
"We feel that it was a success nonetheless, just because the purpose was not necessarily to raise money but to make people aware of what zip lines are," Tom Carey of Envision Rumford said.
Carey and fellow Envision Rumford member Jim Sysko began working on the Fourth of July zip line project in February. Sysko, an engineer who built a 5,000-foot zip line on his Newry property, was instrumental in planning the 500-foot double zip lines that ran from the Hannaford parking lot to the right field fence on the Hosmer Field baseball diamond.
The zip lines were a popular feature of the July 4 festivities, and the public's response was overwhelmingly positive, Carey said.
"I did not hear one negative response," Carey said. "I didn't hear anyone say they weren't happy or thrilled with it. Some people were really excited."
Some people enjoyed the ride so much, they took multiple trips.
"One family was really funny, asking 'Daddy, can we do that again?'" Carey said. "They did that three times until dad's wallet was just about empty."
Empty wallets are the long-range goal for Carey and Envision Rumford, which hope to lure adventure-seeking tourists to Rumford with mammoth zip lines running thousands of feet along the raging Androscoggin River.
"We want their money," Carey said. "I'll be very blunt about it."
The world-class zip lines would truly shine during the spring, Carey said, when melting snow turns Pennacook Falls into a swollen torrent. The zip lines' proximity to Route 2 and the local business area would naturally draw in tourists and bring money to the area, Carey said.
To date, Envision Rumford's plans have encountered opposition from Brookfield Power and the Maine Department of Transportation. Carey said Envision Rumford has no plans to abandon the zip line project.
"We're very committed to this. It will get done," Carey said. "It's just a matter of when."