LEXINGTON - The growing zip line industry isn't regulated by any government authority in Kentucky.
No federal or state agency is charged with keeping track of the safety of the attractions that allow people to "zip" over an area high above the ground.
State lawmakers decided in 2012 to exempt the Kentucky Agriculture Department from overseeing zip lines. The department says it doesn't have the manpower to adequately monitor the growing activity.
"You know how they inspected zip lines prior to this administration?" asked Holly Harris VonLuehrte, chief of staff to Agriculture Commissioner James Comer. "We were told they just sent the biggest ol' boy they could find down the line. If he made it, it was considered safe. Seriously. And we weren't going to be a part of vouching for something if we couldn't be sure it was safe."
That leaves the zip line industry to self-regulate. Several zip line operators in central and eastern Kentucky say they conduct several in-house inspections each year and have outside inspections annually by companies that are certified through the Association for Challenge Course Technology.
"We've had 50,000 participants since we opened in 1992 and we have never had an issue," said Trent Ellsworth, director of Asbury University's Center for Adventure Leadership in Wilmore.
Most states consider zip lines a "sport" and do not regulate them, but Tennessee began inspections after several zip lining accidents happened there.
"Some were pretty good about self-regulating, but some, quite frankly, were not," said Lee Bentley, the state's amusement device inspector manager.
He says inspectors are at a disadvantage because not all operators register with the state as they are supposed to.