River Riders adds zipline for kids, shares future plans
HARPERS FERRY – Last week saw the opening of one more exciting venue for River Riders, a family adventure resort in Harpers Ferry. A new zipline, geared for children, was put into action following a ribbon cutting ceremony hosted by the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce.
“From concept to execution it took about four months (to build),” said River Riders general manager Tyler Tummolo. “This is not an ordinary zip line. It’s brand new technology that really encourages safety. That’s why we were really excited about it. It was 100 percent built out of necessity. We noticed a lot of families coming up with 12, 13, 14 year olds and there was nothing for the younger, 4 to 6 year olds demographics to do. So this is something for them to do and graduate to the bigger elements we provide.”
This zipline adds to multiple activities offered by the resort, making it a destination point for Jefferson County.
Owned and operated by Matt Knott since 1998, the business originally focused solely on river activities.
Knott, who was named the West Virginia Small Business Person of the Year for 2017 by the U.S. Small Business Administration, shared last week that when he bought the business, it focused on white water rafting and tubing.
“I had worked as a river guide for the previous owner,” Knott said.
He had gone to school at Shepherd and was working for an insurance company when the business came up for sale.
“Laura (his wife) let me quit my job and buy a rafting company,” he laughed.
He explained that there were 10 employees then and the tubing and rafting were the activities.
Knott explained that he was doing what he loved and over the years, he was able to expand the business to include other adventures along with the river activities.
In 2011, a Canopy Tour was built.
“It was our first foray into the zipline industry,” Knott said. “People still love it.”
He went on to share that the company added the aerial adventure in 2012 that has “really done well.” That venue, he said, led to the zipline that was opened last week for the children.
“It’s been received really well – everyone’s been loving it. It really builds self-esteem and motivation for these kids,” Tummolo said. “We mapped everything out in the winter about two winters ago. We wanted to not exceed out footprint anymore. We wanted to use our resources, and you can see that we’re weaving in and out of two other courses to maximize our space, not our footprint.”
Knott shared that while his business was going great, he found that many visitors were struggling to find someplace to stay when they came to visit the area. Over time, he was able to acquire three vacation rental homes adjoining the property that are now available for guests to book throughout the year. He also owns two long-term rentals on the roadway as well.
In 2015, Knott was able to purchase the then Quality Inn that adjoins River Riders on U.S. 340 outside of Harpers Ferry. He was able to renovate the entire facility to bring it to a high standard, he said.
The addition of the hotel, which is now a Clarion, River Riders has expanded to 60 acres. The hotel is now the first solar-powered hotel in the state.
Knott said he has long-term plans to convert the business to a “resort” and offer multiple packaging opportunities. His hopes are to have the process complete within in the next three years.
Vanessa McGuigan contributed to this story.