Island dreamer hopes his ambitions will end up on the ropes

ITS film festival ran into trouble late last year but Cockatoo Island could be getting an adventure park.

The founder of Mighty High Aerial Adventure Park, Marcus Jaackson, is planning an attraction that will feature "high-ropes courses", suspension bridges, parachute-style drops and zip lines.

Construction is due to start once negotiations with Sydney Harbour Federation Trust over site remediation are finalised.

While the trust is cautious about the project, with its executive director, Geoff Bailey, saying it had "insufficient information" on how it would be realised, Mr Jackson hopes the $10 million park can open later this year.

Visitors will enter through a 20-metre tall replica of a ship's bow for what are described as "exhilarating aerial challenges" while attached to a cable, including walking across suspension bridges to five rope courses up to 14 metres above a slipway and the harbour.

They [high-ropes parks] are becoming more and more popular worldwide and they've really only just started to filter into Australia.

There will also be a course for children 1.5 metres to 3 metres above the ground.

Mr Jaackson, a former co-owner of advertising and design companies, said watching his teenage autistic son, Shelby, enjoy several high-ropes courses in Britain inspired the venture.

"Shelby just took to it like a duck to water," he said.

Returning to Sydney, Mr Jaackson thought Cockatoo Island was the perfect site for a park that could draw on its harbour location, reflect its shipbuilding heritage and be safe enough for disabled climbers.


He believes the park will appeal to Sydney families, fitness enthusiasts, children on school excursions, corporate groups and tourists, and become a harbour attraction alongside BridgeClimb.

The hope is that it can attract 75,000 visitors to the 13,000 square metre site in the first year.

Mr Jaackson said there were more than 600 adventure parks in Europe.

"Last year over 25 million people visited high-ropes parks throughout Europe," he said. "They're becoming more and more popular worldwide and they've really only just started to filter into Australia."

Similar parks are already operating at Abbotsbury in western Sydney, Newcastle and the south and central coasts.

In 2009, Hugh Jackman rode a flying fox at Cockatoo Island to launch the movie X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which was shot in the heritage buildings on the site.

The island, a former convict prison and shipyard, has had a chequered history in recent years, attracting solid crowds for the Sydney Biennale but disappointing results for comedy and film festivals.

"The island needs something there that's permanent, particularly for through-the-week visitation," Mr Jaackson said. "Younger people … tend to not go there unless they're going to the island bar."