TIMS FORD State Park (TFSP) has more to offer than what meets the eye. The park has a hidden secret not tied to any of its well-worn hiking trails, though they are an adventure of their own. The hidden gem does not lie within the depths of the nearby glistening lake, despite all the unique creatures below its surface. Instead, the park’s best-kept secret hides around the backside of the nature center.
Over two years ago, park staff began renovations on the nature center. The building was previously covered in dust and only used for storage. Slowly, it was cleaned out and remodeled to suit its new intended purposes: recreation and education. Now it is the proud host of a hands-on artifact table, an amphibian exhibit, a large fish tank, animal pelts, turtles, a walkable exhibit explaining the history of Tims Ford Lake, and a bee colony where guests can observe bees and read about their life cycle and processes. Then, looking at the backside of the nature center building’s exterior, you’ll find the gem: a new rappelling wall.
The rappelling wall provides one more opportunity for visitors of TFSP to become more involved in the outdoors. Rappelling is best suited for those who are more adventure-oriented, just like one of the rangers at TFSP, Mark Matzkiw. Ranger Matzkiw shared, “I love doing this kind of adventure-type programming. I’ve always had a proclivity to go towards slightly dangerous things, but I enjoy going towards them and learning to do them in such a way that I can do them safely. I desire to show that to the public and teach them that some of these things are not scary when they are done in a safe way.”
Education is key to keeping people safe. And keeping people safe is the very reason why the park began offering rappelling lessons. Ranger Matzkiw explained, “I worked for the chief ranger’s office for approximately 10 years where we specialized in search and rescue, including high angle rescue. My experiences made me feel compelled to teach skills that might help keep park visitors safe when they take part in rock climbing or rappelling within any of our state parks. This was my main motivation to get the wall built.”
The rappelling class that’s offered covers different types of equipment and hardware used while rappelling, proper knots and their application, and different climbing/rappelling techniques. These lessons are offered most weekends. At this time, the classes are open to all ages and are $15 per person. There is no previous experience required. Equipment such as harnesses, helmets, and gloves are provided by the park. Those interested in rappelling lessons should visit the park’s website to register and view the regularly updated schedule.
Park ranger Mark Matzkiw shared, “Rappelling is a unique outdoor adventure that teaches valuable skills. We hope to expand the current infrastructure and create a much larger area to accommodate a wider variety of climbing opportunities.” GN