Skyrail Rainforest Cableway celebrates 20 years of operation

Skyrail News: August 2015

On 31 August, Skyrail celebrates a major milestone having completed 20 years of operations and boasting a host of 'firsts' along the way. From international awards and accreditations to innovative operational solutions right from the start, Skyrail quickly forged a reputation as an iconic, eco-tourism attraction amongst visitors domestically, and globally.

The core ethos of the company however, remains the same today as it did in 1987 when the concept was first mooted - to showcase World Heritage Listed tropical rainforest to millions of visitors in a safe and environmentally friendly way, visitors who without Skyrail, would never have had the opportunity to experience.

"From the very beginning, Skyrail committed to leading the Aerial Cableway sector in environmental and social best practice. This commitment led to Skyrail achieving Platinum Certification for ten continuous years of benchmarking and certification with EarthCheck in 2012. They were the first in the world to reach this milestone" said Stewart Moore, CEO and Founder of EarthCheck.

Construction of Skyrail commenced in June 1994. Tower sites were selected to coincide with existing canopy gaps and were surveyed to ensure no rare or threatened species were affected. Leaf litter and top soil was collected prior to commencement of the construction and returned when it was completed. The tower footings were built largely by hand, with helicopters used to carry equipment and materials to the sites, thus avoiding the need to cut a swathe through the rainforest, a concern which a small group of people harboured. The towers themselves were flown in section by section and coated in a special paint designed to make them blend in with the environment. Stretching 7.5kms, the cableway at the time of completion, was the longest gondola cableway ride in the world. Even today, Skyrail remains the most environmentally sensitive cableway construction on the planet.

"Skyrail is one of the most innovative tourist attractions in the world and certainly one which is totally in keeping with the pristine environment in which it is located. This is a 'must experience' for the environmentally aware" said Mayor Bob Manning.

Over the years, Skyrail has welcomed countless famous faces including HRH Queen Elizabeth II and also carried iconic objects such as the Olympic torch and Melbourne Cup Trophy. One of the most remote sections of the rainforest is in fact said to be the inspiration for the 'Home Tree' and surrounds in the film Avatar. 

Not content with simply being a hugely successful tourist attraction, the Skyrail Rainforest Foundation (SRF) was established in September 2005 with the primary object of raising and distributing funds to support tropical rainforest education and research projects. A percentage of sales from the gift shop, private donations and membership fees have enabled in excess of $300,000 to be awarded to research projects.  

"The funding provided by the SRF has allowed many of our postgraduates to move on to careers in government, universities, research organisations and non-government agencies in Australia and across the tropics.  In these various roles they are now dealing with the grand challenges impacting on the world's tropical rainforests and making a difference to securing their wise use and protection" said Dr Steve Turton, Professor of Geography, James Cook University.

"Staff both past and present have worked extremely hard to ensure that Skyrail Rainforest Cableway is the successful iconic attraction we see today. In fact six staff who were with us from day one, are still employed here today" said Craig Pocock, Managing Director, Skyrail. "We are proud to continue to lead the way in eco-tourism and showcase this pristine environment to the world. Technology is moving forward at a rate of knots and we will of course be moving with it from the front, but one thing which remains unchanged is our World Heritage Listed tropical rainforest environment - one of the oldest continually surviving rainforests on the planet" he added.

To see some of these memories visit the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway Facebook page for #ThrowBackThursday posts throughout July and August.

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