JungleQuest Riding High on the Wire
By Shawna Hickman
While Tobias Freen is plummeting down a banana yellow slide into a pit of foam, Addy McHenrick and Morgan Ross are racing each other across a wire zip line.
This is an ordinary day at JungleQuest.
Housed in a warehouse strip at 8000 S. Lincoln Street near Mineral and Broadway, about 3,000 kids come climb, jump, slide and balance on the equipment each month. Most popular are the zip line rides where kids, in a safety harness, swing from one end of a cable to another. Owner Doug Root estimates about 35,000 kids come through the facility each year.
“The kids like it,” said Kyle Reese of Camp Shai from the Jewish Community Center. “They go back to their cabins, and they remember they went down the zip line or jumped in a pit of foam.” He brings groups from a day camp several times a year. “We come because the kids like it.”
Reese brings kids from a day camp each summer to JungleQuest, driving from the Jewish Community Center near Alameda and Leetsdale in Denver.
Root bought JungleQuest from a school teacher in 1994. With a bachelor’s degree in recreation administration and a background at the Parker recreation department and experience at YMCAs, Root was home, However, he quickly learned the educational focus had to go.
“We made it less learning, more fun,” he said. “That’s really what the kids want. They get all their learning in school.”
Ten years later, Root is enjoying the success of the business. He also owns an outdoor facility at Heritage Square in Golden and is opening another in Brekenridge this summer. He is also looking into franchising the store.
“It’s a testament to our success that we are considering franchising,” Root said.
He caters to birthday parties, scout groups, off-track groups, day camps and other groups. JungleQuest also offers its own day camp throughout the summer. When JungleQuest opened 10 years ago, Root had three employees; today he has 50.
Teresa Simmons, who has been bringing a group from Hunters Glen Elementary School in Thornton, said it’s worth the drive. She brings a group down twice each summer.
“It’s great,” she said. “We love it, and the kids love it. It’s different than roller-skating. We can’t find anything like this up north.”
What makes JungleQuest a success, Root said, is its unique qualities. Very few places offer kids a chance to play off the ground where it’s safe. Every kids is equipped with a safety harness and educated with a safety talk before they are allowed to take a ride or jump on the slide.
Root believes it is the only facility in the country that offers rock climbing and zip lines to young kids. he’s tried to find other facilities but hasn’t been able to.
“If I could find them, I would go and steal three good ides, but I can’t find them,” he said.
“If you’re 6 and you say I went and did a ropes course, it’s unheard of unless it’s at JungleQuest,” he said.
Many ropes courses are only offered to groups doing team building, he said. It’s hard to find a place that will give someone a ride on a zip line just for fun.
While Root is not an avid climber, he is intrigued by a zip line ride.
“I don’t need to have a passion for climbing,” he said. “I have a passion for making payroll and growing the business.”
He’s talked with the Royal Gorge about installing a zip line over the gorge and offering rides. “That intrigues me,” he said.
For kids it’s all laughter, fun and excitement.
Krystal Klein, 10, said she couldn’t wait to come back.
“I like the racing par best (on the zip line),” said Tori Laudel, 9.
“It’s fun,” said her friend Catherine Cicholski, 10. “You can race with your friends.”