The Day - Sound & Country - - FRONT PAGE -

Grow­ing up on their fam­ily farm in Rocky Hill, Sean Hayes and his two broth­ers spent their days roar­ing through the coun­try­side.

“We had thou­sands of acres to ex­plore and run around in,” he said.

And where res­i­dents of Port­land saw old brown­stone quar­ries the Hayeses— now all grown up— saw an op­por­tu­nity to recre­ate the breath­tak­ing ex­ploits of their boy­hood. They leased the quarry, flooded it and in 2007 rigged it with zip lines and an ever-evolv­ing ar­ray of climb­ing and jump­ing chal­lenges.

To­day, the own­ers and op­er­a­tors of Brown­stone Ex­plo­ration and Dis­cov­ery Park say they have been able to give vis­i­tors a taste of the free-rang­ing, ex­hil­i­rat­ing child­hood they en­joyed.

While Hayes said the mys­tique of the flooded quarry ap­peals to ev­ery­one, the park’s most pop­u­lar at­trac­tion is cliff jump­ing.

“This is what I did when I was 11 and I wanted my kids to have that same op­por­tu­nity,” he said. “We wanted to


give our fam­i­lies the same ad­ven­tures.”

Brown­stone of­fers rock climb­ing, wake­board­ing, cliff jump­ing, 12 zip lines in­clud­ing triple rac­ing lines, a cargo net climb, beach area, vol­ley­ball, walk­ing trails and chal­lenge cour­ses as well as scuba div­ing and snor­kel­ing. When you need a break, there is also a cliff-top pic­nic area which of­fers panoramic views of the park.

Vis­i­tors will find no stair­cases at Brown­stone. Part of the fun, Hayes said, is swim­ming, climb­ing, walk­ing or run­ning from one ac­tiv­ity to the next.

“This is not a con­ser­va­tive tree or canopy tour,” he ex­plained. “Zip-lin­ing, you’re com­ing off a 70-foot cliff go­ing across the quarry and splash­ing into the water.”

The in­ten­sity of the at­trac­tions means that it’s best en­joyed by fam­i­lies with chil­dren age 8 and older.

“It’s de­signed for older kids, teens and, well, those of us who still feel like we’re twen­tysome­thing,” he laughed.

The park hosts school and cor­po­rate team­build­ing pro­grams, and group dis- counts are avail­able. The chal­lenge cour­ses com­bine mul­ti­ple sports and phys­i­cal tests. Vis­i­tors can com­pete one -on-one against their friends, or race as teams. Brown­stone also prides it­self on its ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams, in­clud­ing in­struc­tion in rock climb­ing, scuba div­ing, wake­board­ing, life­guard­ing, and CPR.

You can rent scuba and other equip­ment on a first-come, first-serve ba­sis. An all-day kayak rental for two peo­ple runs $45. There are also pic­nic ar­eas and float­ing gaze­bos avail­able for rent, for 12 to 300 guests.

“We’re pulling in peo­ple from New York, Mas­sachusetts, all over,” Hayes said. “We open at 10 a.m. and close at 7, and still, you can­not get through all of the at­trac­tions in a day. You are busy the whole time.”

New this year, the park is open un­til 10 p.m. on Satur­days. Guests can en­joy a free movie un­der the tent or try night­time zi­plin­ing. A 25% “sec­ond shift” dis­count on ad­mis­sion is avail­able from 4 to 10 p.m.

“We’re not out to gouge peo­ple,” Hayes said. “[Un­der $30] gets you an all-day, all-ac­cess pass for ev­ery­thing ex­cept wake­board­ing. You can bring your own food and drink, and park­ing is free.”

If you don’t feel like packing lunch, the full con­ces­sions are open daily and of­fer hot dogs, ham­burg­ers, cheese­burg­ers, grilled chicken, chicken ten­ders, fries, pizza, clam chow­der, chili and a va­ri­ety of frosted treats. Meal com­bos start at $8.50 and there are al­lyou-can eat meal plans.

Watch­ing the park grow and re­liv­ing his child­hood, Hayes said, has been very re­ward­ing.

“We have huge re­peat busi­ness, and that’s the best part of this— the feed­back you get. We host a group and those same peo­ple will come back with their fam­i­lies. We get calls from op­er­a­tors, who tell us that ev­ery­one fell asleep on the bus go­ing home. And that’s what we’re go­ing for.”

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