His desk job is as director of the Elyria chapter of the Salvation Army. But off hours, Dale Jones coaxes school kids, athletic teams, corporate groups, juvenile offenders, weekend warriors and senior citizens up and around and through and over an obstacle course of ropes and cables, tires, swinging bridges and netting. Jones co-owns the Ropes Course Inc., the fun and challenging personal development and team-building activity nestled in the 21-acre Common Ground Center for Renewal along the Vermilion River in Oberlin. More information on the Ropes Course Inc. and Common Ground can be found at commongroundcenter.org.

Why ropes?

“As a young licensed social worker, I spent a week with co-workers in a similar environment at Outward Bound in North Carolina. It bonded the five of us like nothing we’d done before,” says Jones. When he got back to Northeast Ohio, Jones established his own ropes course in Wellington. From there, he moved his gear a few times before settling in Oberlin three years ago.

The good of the exercise

“It’s a four-hour experience that instills a whole new dimension of self-confidence,” says Jones. “You gain new skills in teamwork and communications and leadership. You learn to trust your teammates and your own abilities. It’s not easy, though. It’s quite competitive. My ropes course is like a military course on steroids.”

Not just ropes

The course also has walls, commando crawls, a cargo net, an incline beam, a raft and a zip line, says Jones.

Fun for all ages

“The oldest person we’ve had on the course was 92,” says Jones. He was a great-great-granddad who came with his family. The youngest participants are about 11. “We bring school kids in here all the time. The course is open 12 months a year, and we can adapt it to all needs. We’ve had wheelchair participants, the visually impaired and those with ADHD, autism … anyone can use the course.”

Parting souvenir

“For now, it’s just $25 apiece for groups of at least 10,” says Jones. “It’s an outdoor educational experience to remember. And everyone leaves with a T-shirt. It says, ‘I Survived the Rope Course.’ It’s like you’ve met a friend when you spot someone else wearing that shirt.”