TREE CLIMBING HISTORY
The roots of tree climbing can be traced back to some of our earliest cultures. Where there have been trees, there has been tree climbing. For some of our human ancestors, tree climbing offered hiding places, places for observation, entrance into tree houses in the canopy, and rich sources of food.
Enter the less serious side of the human experience, and one can find room for recreational tree climbing. This form of expression had its beginnings in Atlanta, Georgia, circa 1983, when a local arborist, Peter Jenkins, took note of folks watching him ply his trade and commenting about how much fun it looked. Thus, the first recreational tree climbing school took root for both young and old alike and for the primary purpose of providing fun in a pure sense. Peter's Founders Grove is still operating and meets every first and third Sunday at approximately 2 PM in east Atlanta at 290 Arizona Avenue. As an outgrowth of Peter's beginnings, articles in newspapers and magazines began to be written about the Treeman and the sport of recreational tree climbing. During this time, I was a fledgling experiential educator working with families and youth at risk, always looking to add to my adventure kit bag. Through an article written in 1989 in a local paper, I found tree climbing. At first I viewed it as an extension of my adventure program which already included backpacking, wilderness camping, white water canoeing, high and low ropes courses, and climbing and rappelling towers and walls. For the first 8 years of my tree climbing experience, I climbed strictly for myself but with others who also enjoyed recreational tree climbing.
All the while I continued my more traditional/non-traditional programming with my families. As time progressed, so did I, moving farther away from fixed low ropes course activities to the more portable initiatives and problem-solving activities. During this phase the light came on that there could be portable high courses and that the connection was tree climbing. This thinking has opened a whole new vista for myself and others. Also along this same time came the realization that the cost factor to establish a tree climbing grove was much less than building a climbing wall, a tower, or a high ropes course. And what is more, a sound tree has the probability of outliving a built structure and with less maintenance. A living tree offers a natural setting which is quieter and warmer than that of a building or a man-made thing, and as my wife says, tree climbing is an elegant endeavor which can be adapted to any number of mind sets and physical abilities.
During the Winter of 1996, I chose to leave the juvenile court system of Georgia which had drifted away from an experiential/adventure approach of working with youth toward their standard probation practices. Thus, with those ties severed, I was free to pursue that which I knew and still know works, experiential programs that now include tree climbing. With the support of our local recreation and parks association here in Fayette County, Georgia, I started an active grove for tree climbing in the small town of Brooks, Georgia. From its inception in March 1996 our grove, known as the TCUSA Grove, has climbed in excess of over 13,000 youth and adults as of January 2007. From our beginnings, we have increased the number of climbing trees in and around Atlanta. In the beginning we climbed every second Sunday from 2 to 5 PM, but now we climb weekly and all year round. Our grove has also grown geographically, and we have climbed throughout the Eastern USA, as far north as Michigan and as far south as the Republic of Panama. In the beginning we did our introductory climbs and some events such as birthday parties, church groups, etc. Now we teach a Basic Tree Climbing course, Facilitator course, Instructor course, conduct expeditions and help others develop groves to meet the needs of their populations. We also do specialty climbs throughout the eastern United States which include private lessons and festivals.
As Tree Climbing USA continues to evolve, we also continue to write and rewrite the history of tree climbing. With our roots taking hold and our branches gaining strength, may you soon join us in a canopy. Eleven years agowhen TCUSA was getting started, we knew of recreational, professional/commercial, and some research types of climbing. Now there are traditional and non-traditional educators, experiential educators,, adaptive facilitators, and many other adventure venues for tree climbing.Connecting interested individuals to three climbing and helping them brang about their creative ideal is a hidden joy we at TCUSA have had the pleasure to expreience time and again. With our roots takinga hold and our branches gaining strength, may you soon join us in a canopy.
Hi, my name is Abram (Abe) Winters. I am:
1) An Ex-Special Forces Staff Sergeant; A-413, A-411, and A-414 (1966, '67, and '68).
2) A trained (4 classes and 8 years of programming) Project Adventure Instructor (1988-1995).
3) An 8-year instructor and director with Project COPE wherein I work with Flint River Council in Georgia (since 1994) and with West Tennessee Council (beginning in 2000).
4) A member of Tree Climbers International as well as a certified master climbing instructor for them as well as for my own business and grove, Tree Climbing USA (1996 to the present).
5) Designer and conductor of an adventure-based diversion program for the Fayette County (Georgia) Juvenile Court (1989-1994).
6) A rational, reasonably sane, married father of two daughters living in a 1og cabin.
Real life adventure programming began for me with my U. S. Army Special Forces training in the 1960's. There I gained a solid appreciation of the essence of experiential education and an understanding of the hands-on approach and the power such training provides. Today, I continue my experiential education through professional associations and sharing information and experiences with noted leaders in the experiential field. Organizations I belong to include: Association of Experiential Education, Project Adventure, Association of Challenge Course Technology, Georgia Recreation and Parks Association, and AORE.
Since 1989, I have facilitated ropes courses, both low courses for group initiative and problem-solving and high courses for personal growth, challenging preconceived boundaries and trust issues. These have been conducted with adjudicated youth, special school populations, corporate and leadership groups, scouts, and churches. I have been teaching and facilitating tree climbing since February 1996, where much of my work has been in the recreational and experiential areas along with educational and expeditional opportunities.
I have presented and/or exhibited at a variety of conferences. For a complete listing, please click here.
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