MESA, Ariz. — When retired fighter and airline pilot Al Gardner of Mesa, Ariz., bought 455 acres of land on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, he originally intended to develop the tropical landscape into housing to provide more accommodations for the growing Brigham Young University satellite campus located there.
However, once the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints was able to complete its own development project, Gardner decided to pull his project and try something different.
“I’m trying to help them, so I figured why would I want to compete with them?” he said.
Instead Gardner decided to construct the island’s first zip line course.
“(It’s) absolutely gorgeous — every part of it,” he said. “Anybody that’s been on it just can’t believe that you can have that kind of experience.”
Gardner said the project is aimed at not only providing people with spectacular views of the island, but giving them a history lesson as well.
“We’re really trying to tell the story of the island itself,” he said.
As zip liners travel down the seven-leg course, each stop includes information and history about the island, agriculture and the Polynesian people who originally settled there.
Gardner said the lines are located near the Polynesia Culture Center, and he wanted the tour to be an extension of the educational experience people get there.
“We’re doing it for the purpose of teaching Hawaiians, in particular, but anybody, it’s an educational tour,” Gardner said.
Zip lining is a popular tourist activity in Hawaii, and on the island of Maui, Gardner said there are nine different companies that provide the service.
A run down the zip line at Gardner’s course costs $149 and takes about three hours to complete.
“My highest elevation is 410 feet, so we start at the point and everything is downhill to 10 feet,” Gardner said.
He said when he decided to build a zip line course, he partnered with a Tennessee company called Climbworks to build and operate the lines.
Gardner said 5 percent of the gross income goes to scholarships for Polynesians to help the school and the cultural center.
In the coming months, he said he expects to add an eighth stop on the course that is currently being built.