History of PRCA and Founder is Stepping Down


PRCA Members: Past and Present
Dear Friends and Colleagues,As the New Year begins to unfold, I desire to issue you all a letter outlining some significant changes at the PRCA. Additional information regarding the status of the PRCA American National Safety Standard for our industry is also contained within. These are complex topics and I have attempted to explain the information to the best of my knowledge. I also realize it has been some time since you have received an update from the PRCA, so much of this may be slightly overwhelming. However, I wanted to connect once most of the “dust” settled and a more clear future was certain.Regarding a recent change in leadership of the PRCA:

After many years of leadership, I have decided to step down as President of the PRCA Board of Directors. My reasons are multi-fold, starting with the term limits our Board Members observe via the PRCA by-laws. The by-laws outline term limits and the number of continuous terms one may serve. After severing on the Board for most of my allowed term limits, it seemed an appropriate time for me to step down and begin observing my formal leave, before being eligible to serve once again. Having achieved adoption of the ANSI American National Standard and having all ACCT appeals contesting the standard being denied by ANSI, this appears now to be a closing chapter. This timing, in conjunction with my own growing businesses, I thought now was a calmer time for the PRCA and a good time to transition leadership. I wish to thank my fellow board members and all the membership for their support over the past years. I have created many new and lastly friendships as President, which has enriched me both professionally and personally.

Interesting Tenure:

As you may recall, in 2003, the PRCA was co-founded by myself, Joel Cryer and Wesley Hunter. My motivation being that my installation company had been denied objective affiliation and representation by the ACCT for years. At the time, the industry insurance policy was directly tied to the successful completion of an ACCT peer review process, as told by a leading insurance industry professional and self-aware by anyone in the industry. Since my company had been repeatedly denied access to this review process since 2000, the logical conclusion was to create an alternative medium, to gain insurance, and stay competitive in business.

Many have incorrectly portrayed that the prompt to create the PRCA was nothing more than a personal grudge or sour grapes; a score for me to settle with ACCT. Certainly there was a level of frustration of being kept from the industry by ACCT leadership and letters from their attorney, but moreover, the drive to stay in business was the primary purpose. To be able to exercise my right of free speech and call for change in the current industry associations was another.

Instead of sitting by, doing nothing, and loosing what I had gone to college to study and the business we had created, I desired to take matters into my own hands and create a solution; no longer buying into what I perceived as the problem. Therefore, without support from the current industry establishment, we sought out a competitive insurance carrier to provide insurance for builders not part of the standard normative of the time.

In 2002, successful adoption of a new insurance program had been secured. In concert with hundreds of hours, searching for original sources for materials and installation practices for ropes courses, predating the March 1994 ACCT standard and AEE Best Practices, the first original standards where produced. At this time I must note, there was not even a PRCA. The PRCA was created per the request of the insurance carrier, that a governing body needed to oversee the standard. Thus the new association was to be founded; Professional Ropes Course Association in 2003. This was the primary purpose for creating the PRCA in 2003.

Concurrently during this timeframe, my firm was hired to install, what we believed to be the first advertised and commercial zipline tour in Hawaii in 2002. Arguably, other canopy tours may have predated in the United States, but they were not being named or marketed as such. We quickly learned that any previous standard available in the industry was incomplete as we addressed longer, tighter, higher, and faster ziplines, with increased cable diameters, new product, and increased cycle usage.

In early 2005, we became aware of a new company that was beginning to get into the zipline tour industry. They had already been in business, yet we had not heard of them installing ziplines and now they were installing a competitive zipline tour to one my firm was installing just a mere 20 miles away; such a small world. This was the beginning of double cable, hand braking tours in the United States as we knew it. This seemed to follow the Costa Rica style of installation. This created new information and “styles” not previously addressed in the PRCA 2003 standard or by the previous five tours we had already installed in Hawaii and Alaska. This was also a critical time as States began to examine regulation of ropes challenge courses.

Seeing the writing on the wall, I approached the PRCA Board of Directors at the time with the idea of becoming ANSI Accredited Standards Developer. No other one else in our industry had achieved such accreditation. I presented the argument that we could develop one industry standard via the ANSI process or we may have 50 different state regulations to have to sort through as we conducted business. A single source document was the logical choice. Following board approval, we set out on a lengthy process to become compliant with ANSI Essential Requirements. On December 3, 2005, the PRCA became the first ANSI Accredited Standards Developer in the ropes challenge course industry.

I could go off here into many different tangents as the ACCT began appealing the ANSI Accreditation of the PRCA, the PRCA published a new standard for the first public review, and the insurance market was starting to recognize the PRCA, along with state regulators and attorney’s that were bringing litigation in certain court cases. Add in public comments, business of my own, and the birth of my third son; yes, it was a busy time indeed.

I’m proud that under my leadership, all in our industry have had benefits. I’m proud that in the face of steep odds, the PRCA was founded, conferences were planned, early newsletters where developed, insurance programs became more available, a website was developed, the PRCA was first to develop a conference specific website, and now our industry has an ANSI/PRCA American National Standard. These are just some of the accomplishments during my privilege of service. In addition and outside the PRCA, I am proud to have been a co-founder of a Rotary Club group in my hometown, provided free facilitator training to over 200 ropes course professionals, served on the Board of Trustees of the Wilderness Education Association, was guest speaker at a Beloit College on Entrepreneurship (a very respected liberal arts university), and was recipient of the Frank Lupton Service Award from WEA and Distinguished Alumni from Western Illinois University. This made for a very busy tenure, all while earning my million mile medallion on Delta and a million miles in vehicle travel.

So this is not a goodbye, but a mere changing of the leadership. As part of this process, the PRCA has developed an Advisory Board for which I am now Chairman. My role, as with other Advisory Board Members is to provide service to the association through historical knowledge, consult in areas of expertise, and aid the PRCA in association functions.

The current PRCA BOD is now comprised of:

Jim Willis, President

Mike Barker, Vice President

Scott Jordan, Secretary

Tom Rapine, Treasure

Carrie Taylor

Jack Kerns

Dave Prowitz

Regarding the status of the PRCA/ANSI American National Standard:

The PRCA/ANSI American National Standard (ANS) continues to stand as the American National Standard for our industry.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approved the new ANS on March 3, 2014. An appeal to revoke approval of the ANS was brought by the ACCT to the ANSI Board of Standards Review (BSR). On August 7, 2014, all of ACCT’s arguments were presented in an appeal hearing, before a 7-member BSR appeal panel. During the hearing the PRCA presented evidence to refute the ACCT’s arguments.

The end result is: The ANSI BSR denied all of ACCT’s arguments resulting in denial of ACCT’s appeal. And, as of September 5, 2014, all possibility of future appeals are forfeit.

The BSR’s written judgment states that:

· “PRCA did indeed Fully Comply with the 2006 ANSI ExSC Appeals Decision”

· “PRCA Complied with the ANSI Essential Requirements”

· “PRCA Complied with its Own Accredited Procedures”

· “PRCA appropriately engaged in outreach efforts in satisfaction of the balance requirements contained in the Essential Requirements” (this pertains to balance requirements on the consensus body for establishing safety standards – the BSR affirmed that the new ANS meets the requirements to be recognized as an American National Safety Standard)

Conclusion (entire, taken from the BSR’s announcement):

“The BSR finds that ACCT has not provided sufficient or compelling evidence to warrant the withdrawal of the approval of PRCA 1.0-.3-2014 as an American National Standard. While PRCA’s standards development process necessitated corrective actions prior to the BSR’s final decision to approve, those actions were taken to the satisfaction of the BSR and we believe that due process was afforded ACCT and other participants.

Accordingly, in light of the written evidence and oral testimony presented by all parties and based on the specific discussions set forth earlier in this decision, the ANSI BSR denies the appeal and finds that its prior decision to approve PRCA 1.0-.3-2014 as an ANS was appropriate. As a result, PRCA 1.0-.3-2014 remains an approved American National Standard.”

Therefore, it is the ANSI BSR’s judgment that the ANSI/PRCA 1.1-3-2014 Ropes Challenge Course Installation, Operation & Training Standards continues to stand as the American National Safety Standard for our industry.

For those who are interested in such things, you can find the ANSI BSR’s announcement, including the appeal panel’s entire judgment, on the PRCA website.

Now that there is an ANSI/ PRCA ANS, according to ANSI’s Essential Requirements, as we understand the spirit, intent, and comments from ANSI staff, there can be no duplicative or conflicting standard adopted as an ANSI ANS. This is a point of heated debate, but in short, any content that the ANSI / PRCA ANS covers today, cannot be duplicated by any other association; including but not limited to the ACCT or ASTM. This is why joint standards and efforts moving forward as what I believe to be a critical next step.

As such, the PRCA has continues to reach out to these other associations and attempt a joint standard, merging the best of all sources into a single source document. In the meantime, many states are now in receipt of the ANSI/ PRCA ANS and are in review, looking to adopt and reference the ANSI/PRCA ANS. Many states are falling upon current regulations which read, in part, “…acceptable standards by the ACCT or equivalent.” The ANSI/PRCA ANS is now the equivalent and more!

In closing, “Thank You” again for the opportunity to serve as the past President of the PRCA BOD. I look forward to staying busy and continue to be available to serve as required. Feel free to reach out to the current BOD if you wish to serve on new initiatives such as committee groups, special interest services, or other ways to support YOUR Association!


Steve Gustafson



3 Comments on “History of PRCA and Founder is Stepping Down”

  1. Josh says:

    who is the founder of PRCA?


  2. Robbie Oates says:

    Congratulations Steve. I know you have worked long and hard to make PRCA what it is today. You have earned a well deserved change. I hope the organization can continue with out your guiding hand.

    I look forward to seeing how the PRCA standards hold up in the industry. Only time will tell!!


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