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Story reported by June 11, 2013

Sky Tours Zipline Allows People to Soar Over History



DUBUQUE, Iowa — Thrill seekers are flocking from all over the region to Our Town, not only to zip line, but to soar over history. It’s a scene you might not think you would see in Our Town. An area with rugged terrain, mud, wild greens and a zip line. Sky Tours is behind the zip line, bringing a family fun activity to the tri-state area. 


“It’s a course, I describe it like a nine-hole golf course you work your way around the valley and kind of end up where you started,” YMCA Camp Director, Kevin Hougham said. 


People come from all over to experience the thrill, see the sights, and get up high. Sky Tours Tour Guide, Dusty Collins shows visitors the ropes. “It’s like riding a bike, but doing it in the air. So think like ET riding his bike through the air. That’s probably kind of what it felt like,” Collins said. 


The course itself has only been around for about two years, but the park it sits in has been around much longer. A local electric company built Union Park in the early 1900s to entice people to use the company’s trolley line. 


“They developed it as basically an amusement park, roller coaster, bowling alley, giant theater, swimming pools, restaurants. It was kind of the place to be on weekends in Dubuque,” Hougham said. But disaster hit in 1919 when flash floods wiped out the park. Rushing waters and flying debris killed five people, and Union Park never recovered. 


“With the advent of the automobile, Eagle Point Park being free, and the stigma of the deaths, the park just kind of fell into decline, and they just couldn’t generate the traffic that they needed anymore,” Hougham added. 


The YMCA eventually bought Union Park and gutted the old buildings. This cement is the only evidence of the park that remains, but it’s legacy lives on through the zip line, acting both as a thrill and a history lesson. 


“As a tour guide you would also be sort of a historian on the tour, so we’ll take you out to the tower and explain sort of what everything is. We’ll place it for you,” Collins said. 


If you haven’t zipped before, you aren’t the only newbie. Sky Tours says about 80 percent of its guests are first-timers. Safety is a priority for Sky Tours. The guides strap each guest into a harness, and, of course, everyone has to wear a helmet.