Who hasn’t dreamt of taking to the trees for a night or two? It’s the stuff of childhood reveries, and next year, nature-lovers of all ages will be able to make it happen.
In spring 2020, northwest Ohio is set to welcome a newcomer to its parks system: Cannaley Treehouse Village, a network of treetop abodes on the outskirts of Toledo.
Located in Oak Openings Preserve Metropark, the US$1.5 million complex will feature four treehouses and three tent or hammock platforms for overnights, plus a common-area treehouse for daytime use. In a compromise between glamping and full-on roughing it, the treehouses will have electricity, heat, and composting toilets, with shower facilities nearby, and canopy bridges will connect them to the main house and the main house to a crow’s nest, so guests’ feet will barely have to touch the ground for the duration of their stay.
The accommodations may be lofty, but officials are working to make the experience open to all. Prices will be reasonable, in line with local hotel rates, with reservations available via lottery, at least at first, to handle what’s expected to be a tremendous amount of interest. The common treehouse and the four-person treehouse will have wheelchair-accessible ramps, and though the former can be reserved for events, the park is committed to keeping it open to the public at least 25% of the time—no fees involved.
An undertaking in the works since 2017, the compound is on track to be funded entirely through private means, thanks to the efforts of the nonprofit Metroparks Toledo Foundation and one donor in particular: the village’s namesake, Linda Cannaley, who committed to footing half the bill. “When we acquired a 500-acre addition adjacent to Oak Openings Preserve, it afforded an opportunity to do something unique,” says Metroparks Toledo public relations director Scott Carpenter. “We had the place and the idea, and they were matched up nicely.” Under the direction of chief of planning and capital projects Emily Ziegler, the organization tapped Nelson Treehouse and Supply of Treehouse Masters fame to design the village and train the in-house construction crew. They broke ground in September 2018, beginning work on the largest project ever undertaken in the park district.
When it opens next year, Cannaley looks set to be the first treehouse village in a public park in the country, a detail officials hope will spark locals and travelers alike to connect with the outdoors—and support conservation efforts in return. “It is a rare and special natural area, but its significance may not be understood by everyone,” Scott says. “That’s OK – not everyone is an ecology expert. But if we can provide opportunities for people to make meaningful memories in nature, chances are they will learn to love it, and people will protect what they love.”