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Home » SCIENCE AND NATURE » VERMONT » Forever Young Treehouses, Shelburne, Vermont
A Pine Tree Camp Treehouse
Forever Young Treehouses, Shelburne, Vermont

By Phyllis Hanlon | January 13, 2011

A Vermont company is bringing that most unique and exciting of childhood experiences, the treehouse, back into fashion and aiding the wider community as they do so.

Bill Allen has loved treehouses ever since he was a little boy. Throughout his childhood, he found pleasure both in building and playing high in the branches of his backyard oak. Upon the death of his father, he turned to a treehouse construction project as a means of grief therapy. Years later, a long-time friend contracted hepatitis C and sought Allen’s help maneuvering the psychological chaos the diagnosis imposed. The duo initiated a simple, therapeutic treehouse building project that grew into the not-for-profit venture, Forever Young Treehouses.

Counselors and Campers at Zeno Mountain Farm

Now retired, Allen has turned the reins of the organization over to James B’Fer Roth. As director and lead designer for Forever Young, Roth continues its mission of bringing “universally acceptable” treehouses to all people.

For the most part, Forever Young constructs treehouses for specialty camps. The process begins by identifying an appropriate area with sufficient trees – preferably a hardwood variety, such as hickory, maple or oak. “The trees steer the design and dictate the shape,” Roth notes. “For occasions when there are not enough trees, we supplement living trees with posts on cement footings for a natural look.”

During the design phase, the client obtains funding for the project, which averages $150,000, although costs increase when special features are added.

“In Vermont, we built one for $50,000. On the other side, we built an insanely expensive one in Los Angeles for $750,000,” Roth says, explaining that the addition of ramps, platforms and adhering to earthquake zone regulations boosted the price tag.

Ten campers can live in a treehouse at Zeno Mountain Farm

Zeno Mountain Farm in Lincoln, Vermont, has constructed four treehouses at the camp, which caters to “people of all ages and abilities,” according to director Peter Halley. “We can accommodate ten people in each treehouse. They have bathrooms with composting toilets.   All are built with local wood harvested in Vermont,” he says.

At Pine Tree Camp in Rome, Maine, approximately 1,000 individuals from the residential and day programs, as well as those who partake in spring and fall retreats, enjoy the treehouse experience.   Anne L. Marsh, executive director of the Pine Tree Society, which operates the camp, praises the benefits associated with this unique opportunity.

“The treehouse is a wonderful asset to any camp program,” she says. “It’s wonderful for people with mobility issues to be in the woods, to feel the sway of the tree, examine its bark and leaves.” She adds that the camp has developed a nature program around the treehouse that includes viewing various forms of wildlife from high above the ground.

Building a treehouse provides obvious benefits to individuals with disabilities, but also offers rewards for the entire community.   Marsh explains that a diverse group of volunteers provided much-needed assistance.

“A local corporation lent a team of workers, and individuals who heard about the project came to assist. It was a great value-added effort,” she notes.

Volunteers assist in the construction at Pine Tree Camp

Not all Forever Young treehouses are located in specialty camps. Some are situated in public gardens and parks where individuals with disabilities as well as those who are able-bodied can share in the excitement of the building stages and enjoyment of the completed off-the-ground adventure.

Allen cites such a project in Burlington, Vermont, where children, both with and without disabilities, worked collaboratively during the construction phase.   Additionally, several 70 and 80-year old men and women turned out as the project began to unfold. “They were anxious to use it and wanted to check its progress,” he reports. Unlike an accessible play area, this type of playground creates a common ground for the community, one that is equally appealing to all ages and physical abilities. According to Allen, a treehouse represents the “front porch for everyone.”

Roth points out that treehouses built for the public cost more, since the number of users is often undetermined. “You and I might go with our families or 100 people could show up all at once,” he says. “They have to be engineered for structural soundness.”

Forever Young Treehouses has spread its roots to sixteen states. Vermont leads the way with four and Illinois boasts two. “We have a couple of new ones on the drawing board and one in the conceptual stage,” Roth reports.

Allen believes that anyone – regardless of age, gender and physical and mental ability – should have the privilege of experiencing the magic a treehouse can provide. If they have their way, the team at Forever Young Treehouses will make this dream a reality.


4253 Shelburne Road, Unit 6, Shelburne, VT 05482

(802) 862 4630

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