Man jumps on plan to allow bungee jumping operation Timonium residents, group oppose altering site

May 13, 1998|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

James Riffin is immersed in zoning law while assessing the strength of latex cords and researching federal safety guidelines -- all thanks to his dental hygienist.

Several months ago, Riffin, a 53-year-old energy use consultant, sat in his dentist's chair, chatting about a crane he purchased to help renovate a building in Timonium.

"My dental hygienist said, 'Why don't you use it for bungee jumping?' I've been looking into it and learning about it since," said Riffin.

This week, he asked the Baltimore County zoning commissioner for permission to alter the building at 1941 Greenspring Drive and open a bungee jumping operation on the property flanked by low-lying warehouses and office buildings.

Riffin wants to hoist jumpers 100 feet into the air, hook them up to two or three bungee cords and allow them to jump off a platform. An air mattress would be placed below to cushion the fall in case of accidents.

But Riffin's plan has hit one major snag. Bungee-jumping operations were outlawed by the Maryland General Assembly five years ago.

Riffin, who only recently learned about the prohibition, said he is determined to bounce back, perhaps by launching a constitutional challenge to the ban or trying to skirt the law on a technicality.

In states that do allow the sport, the cost per jump can range from $40 to $100. With insurance, air bags and expensive cords, the cost to operators can be great. In recent years, bungee jumping has declined in popularity because of concerns over injuries, one Florida operator said.

Riffin also faces opposition from neighboring property owners and from the Greater Timonium Community Council, which is concerned that the bungee operation would draw rubberneckers and tie up traffic.

"I'm afraid of bungee jumping, personally," said Kathleen Beadell, president of the community group.

Pub Date: 5/13/98

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