How to incorporate RTC Programs at a Park/Recreation facility

Climbing facilitator working with a group

by Harv “Ponderosa” Teitelbaum, GOTC President Emeritus

Recreational Tree Climbing (RTC) gets kids, youth, adults, couples, families off the ground and into the canopy, where they enjoy the views of the surrounding landscape, nature, wildlife, breezes, and more. Kids love it, and it helps get them outside, moving and exercising, together with their friends and families. Beyond that, RTC adds value to the center or facility, increasing visitor-ship and the constituency of those supporting nature facilities, trees, and forests.

There are two ways P&R’s/outdoor/nature/experiential centers can incorporate RTC programs into their activities offerings. First, an outside RTC facilitator can be contacted and programs discussed. The outside facilitator will normally carry his/her own insurance and provide all necessary equipment. He or she will work with center staff to select and prepare the most suitable tree(s), do effective marketing, and arrive at the best pricing/fee-sharing arrangements. As an example, a center may charge in the neighborhood of $30-35/climber for an app. 2 1/2 hour climbing event, depending on youth/adult, in-district/out, etc., and share on an 80/20 or 75/25 basis. Instead of percentage sharing, some facilitators simply ask for a flat fee, such as $25/climber, and then let the center determine prices for climbers as it sees fit. In addition to regularly scheduled group climbs open to the public, birthday climbs and climbs for other special occasions and groups can be offered.

As an alternative, centers can choose to have their own personnel trained to become in-house RTC facilitators. Specialized training from an RTC Instructor is needed. (RTC facilitation is considered a specialized skill set; training in tree care or arboriculture alone is not comparable.) The Instructor could be someone who is local, or one who is willing to travel to the center, or one to whom center personnel are willing to travel to be trained. The training normally includes two courses, a basic tree climbing course (even if personnel have other climbing experience) and a facilitators course. The courses can often be taught concurrently, but there is typically a waiting period, normally 6 months, before the first publicly-offered climb could be conducted by the new facilitators. During the waiting period, the facilitator-trainee gains RTC climbing experience and expertise, keeping logs on a prescribed number of climbs, and sharing/discussing these with the Instructor before proceeding.

The facilitator or facilitators organization shall hold public liability insurance for recreational tree climbing to an amount that is suitable for their geographical location.

The Global Organization of Tree Climbers (GOTC) provides an excellent map-database of recognized Facilitators and Instructors around the world. It can be accessed here

If you are interested in incorporating tree climbing into your program offerings and have additional questions, please contact the GOTC using the email link below. We are here as a resource to you should you have any questions on how to start tree climbing programs at your camp, nature center, arboretum, preserve, park, school, or similar organization, find recognized facilitators and instructors in your area, discuss range of costs to expect, site requirements, or anything else you can think of. We are available year-round for training referrals and consultation.

Thank you for your time.

For the GOTC,

Harv “Ponderosa” Teitelbaum, President