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North River rafting business looks to the hills for expansion

Planning Board poised to make decision on zip line

Marko Schmale, of Whitewater Challengers in North River

Marko Schmale, of Whitewater Challengers in North River

— Someone surveying the towering hill behind Whitewater Challengers rafting business along Route 28 in North River might see trees and brush, boulders and dirt and remnants of the latest snow fall. But Whitewater Challengers owner Marko Schmale looks at the hillside and sees the future.

“If it ever became available, I knew what I wanted to do with that piece of property 10 years ago,” Schmale said Feb. 20 as he discussed his vision for the property. “It became available last June and I’ve been working on it ever since.”

The future Schmale sees for the 17-acre parcel features a forest adventure course that includes a tree-top zip line, a zap line, (a shorter version of a zip line) along with an interpretive hiking trail and two paintball fields.

All are designed to supplement the whitewater rafting business that has operated from that location since 1984 and broaden the options available for visitors to the upper Hudson River region.

Whereas a rafting trip takes a full day, Schamle said he’s envisioning activities that can be enjoyed during a two-, three- or four-hour time period.

“Let’s say someone checks into the Copperfield at 1 in the afternoon for a rafting trip the following day,” he said. “They’re wondering what they could do during an afternoon. This gives them some options.”

Schmale closed on purchase of the property in December. At about the same time, on Dec. 5, Schmale obtained Adirondack Park Agency approval for his project. He said he’s been to the Johnsburg Planning Board three times as part of the approval process, with a fourth visit coming this Monday, Feb. 27, at the Board’s regular monthly meeting.

“I’m hoping next Monday we’ll have cleared all the hurdles and be good to go,” Schmale said. “Then I’ll be hiring a contractor to install the zip line.”

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