Common Ground nurtures mind, body with active recreation

Common Ground, a retreat center located in rural Oberlin, has a mission to encourage conscious living.

Sometimes that includes swinging through the treetops.

Its full name is Common Ground: The Cindy Nord Center for Renewal. The nonprofit center has a number of programs based on the ground at its 30-acre campus at 14240 Baird Road, Henrietta Township.

There, the east branch of the Vermilion River runs through the woods and people climb above them.

Common Ground will celebrate its 25th year in 2019. This year will be the fifth for the Canopy Tour.

“It’s a two and a half hour tour up in the canopy of the trees,” said Common Ground Executive Director Ken Fraelich. “It’s a pretty immersive experience.”

There are tours for youth groups, adult groups and individuals. Participants travel around 13 platforms on seven ziplines and three aerial bridges.

The program starts at ground school, where participants gear up with helmets and harnesses. They get to know the cables, the hand signals of the guides, and how to slow down by hand (wearing leather gloves, Fraelich added.)

Participants pose for a photo on one of the aerial bridges in the Canopy Tour of Common Ground. 📷 by Common Ground

Then, what goes up, stays up.

“You really get to see a different perspective and that’s what we really like about it,” Fraelich said.

The trips are somewhat customizable.

Fraelich noted some groups like the adrenaline rush of the ziplines. Others spend time considering their surroundings and learning about the trees and birds in them, he said.

The staff want to help guide participants to a deeper connection to nature and a sense of stewardship for it, Fraelich said.

“We just try to get folks to unplug and reconnect with themselves, reconnect with their families,” Fraelich said.

The Canopy Tour is not the only program at Common Ground.

The Adventure Challenges include a newly designed High Ropes Course for youths and adults.

This year will be the start of the new Recreational Tree Climb for children at least 6 years old.

That program is just how it sounds: Kids put on helmets and harnesses and climb trees.

They will have safety lines if they slip.

“Any excuse we can give to people to get off their devices and get out in nature and hang out with their family, that’s what we’re all about,” Fraelich said.

Richard Payerchin enjoys getting out and about in Lorain County and beyond.

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