Sky Tours Zipline at YMCA Union Park Camp in Dubuque Iowa

An excerpt of an article published Sunday, April 22, 2012, by the Telegraph-Herald 


The spectrum of after-school programs has grown


by Stacey Becker | TH staff writer

Photography by Jessica Reilly


Some of the after-school specials





Dubuque, IA - Ethan Sanchez looked with fear at the equipment strapped around his waist. “This is the only thing keeping us from life and death?” he asked. “That’s right,” said Kevin Hougham, a zipline guide with Sky Tours at the YMCA Union Park Camp. Moments later, the Jefferson Middle School seventh-grader’s fear of a sudden demise subsided as he ziplined through trees. “Oh, that’s awesome,” Sanchez yelled.


Eight Jefferson students left their books behind to zip on six lines and learn the tragic history of the 1919 Union Park flash flood on a recent Monday during LEAP’s Zipline program. Held from 2:45 to 5:30 p.m., the zipline is offered multiple times at both middle schools throughout the second semester. Transportation is provided by the Y. 




“These kids don’t see anything like this downtown,” said Rich Hatcher, an instructional coach and student needs facilitator at Jefferson who also ziplined.


Abbi Kness, a seventh-grader, registered for the program because it looked “really, really cool.” Her schoolmate, Sage Smith, a sixth-grader, agreed. “It’s fun,” she said. “I’ve never done it before.”


While resting on a hill overlooking the remnants of the Mammoth Theater, Jon Roth, a zipline guide who helped Hougham, talked about the park’s flash flood.“This theater was big enough that it closed this valley,” Roth said. On July 9, 1919, Union Park was filled with hundreds of people. Rain began to fall hard, water started to rise rapidly in the park stream and a torrent of water engulfed the valley. Roth said the theater acted like a big dam and five people, including four children, were killed. “Eventually it closed,” he said about Union Park.


Students finished their zipline experience with a hike to the final line — The Duel. Paired together, students soared side-by-side on the zipline that is more than 800 feet long. Students smiled as they zipped down the hillside and glided over the ruins of Union Park. “It was exhilarating,” Sanchez said. “And we got to learn a little bit on the way.”

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