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Speak Up for the Gym on Oct. 4

On Monday, Oct. 4, at 3 p.m., the Town of Jackson and Teton County elected officials will meet as part of a Joint Information Meeting (JIM) to discuss the rec center expansion, including the development of the community climbing gym.

For community members, the Oct. 4 meeting represents the last opportunity to influence the gym’s design.

The agenda for Oct. 4 JIM may be found here. Public comment begins at 3 p.m.

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The TCC has reviewed the preliminary designs for the climbing gym. We are encouraged by the gym’s preliminary designs, which are creative, efficient and maximize the square footage allocated to the climbing gym while still incorporating social space—a key ingredient to a successful gym. 

Our central concern, however, remains unchanged. The amount of space allocated to the climbing gym remains inadequate, and will likely result in wait lists to manage crowding and demand.

Community members who share our concern may offer their perspective during public comment at the beginning of the Oct. 4 JIM.

Please offer public comment. Community members may make comment in support of a bigger gym at the start of the meeting. It’s easy—you can even do it remotely!

The Teton Climbers’ Coalition has been reaching out to elected officials about our concerns that the climbing gym will be too small. They’ve told us that they need to hear from a wide cross-section of the community, not just TCC board members—especially because the Rec Center expansion, and the gym, are being funded by SPET money voted on by the community. 

Community members may also write our elected officials. The easiest way to let our elected officials know what you want to see in a climbing gym is by writing them an email. (Here’s a sample letter in support of a bigger climbing gym.) Here are the addresses to use:

 

Town Council All council@jacksonwy.gov
Jonathan Schechter jschechter@jacksonwy.gov
Hailey Morton Levison hmortonlevinson@jacksonwy.gov
Jim Rooks jrooks@jacksonwy.gov
Jessica Chambers jchambers@jacksonwy.gov
Arne Jorgenson AJorgensen@jacksonwy.gov
County Commission All commissioners@tetoncountywy.gov
Greg Epstein gepstein@tetoncountywy.gov
Natalia Macker nmacker@tetoncountywy.gov
Mark Barron mbarron@tetoncountywy.gov
Luther Propst lpropst@tetoncountywy.gov
Mark Newcomb mnewcomb@tetoncountywy.gov

 

The important thing is for community members to make our voices heard collectively. If elected officials don’t hear from us, they will have no reason to advocate for a gym that meets the community’s needs.

Let your elected officials know what you want for the community climbing gym. Oct. 4 represents our last chance to do so. This and future generations of Teton climbers depend on us speaking up now.

 

Hoback Shield Parking Update

Cars parked on the south side of the highway in late September 2021. Parking on this side of the highway is still possible, despite the installation of the longer guardrail.

 Update: Parking is still available along the south side of the highway to access the Hoback Shield.

Earlier this year, the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) informed the Bridger-Teton National Forest (BTNF) of their intention to place guardrails on the highway at the base of the Hoback Shield, one of Jackson Hole’s premier climbing crags, due to road construction in the area.

As placement of the guardrails would eliminate the parking pullout used by climbers to access the cliff, the Teton Climbers’ Coalition (TCC) began to coordinate with the BTNF on an alternative parking plan.

On August 23, these plans were put on hold due to the identification of the Hoback Shield area as the location of an 1895 battle between members of the Bannock tribe and white settlers.

“Due to the area’s location on a bench above the river, and the historical descriptions of a battle that took place in that area, we know it has a high potential for cultural resources to be present,” said Tim Farris, the Trails/Wilderness Supervisor for the Bridger-Teton National Forest. “We need to follow the proper NEPA process before disturbing any ground.”

Subsequent research identified that the battle resulted from a hunting rights dispute. 

“The Fort Bridger Treaty of 1868 guaranteed members of the Shoshone and Bannock tribes hunting rights on public lands in Wyoming,” wrote John Daugherty in A Place Called Jackson Hole—rights that were exercised by the tribes. “During the summer of 1895, Constable William Manning led several [white] posses after [Bannock] hunting parties from Fort Hall, Idaho. On July 11, a posse arrested a group of Bannocks, including women and children, at Battle Mountain in the Hoback Canyon…. Manning’s posse killed one Bannock and wounded one other.”

Battle Mountain is the historic Anglo-American name for the Hoback Shield. The Native American name is not yet known.

On September 27, the TCC was informed that WYDOT had completed its work on the guardrail project in Hoback Canyon immediately below the Hoback Shield. Even with the installation of a new, longer guardrail, parking is still possible on the south side of the highway.

“As always, climbers should ensure that they are parking well off the highway and not impeding traffic flow in any way,” said Linda Merigliano, the BTNF’s Recreation Manager.

Plans for a safer parking area are under development. “We will be releasing a scoping document for public comment in the fall that will include what we are now calling the ‘Granite Creek Recreation Area Restoration project,'” said Merigliano. “It will include re-design of the current winter parking area but not a ‘new’ parking area.”

The TCC will continue to provide updates as they become available.

Rec Center Climbing Gym Moving in Right Direction, Still Too Small

 

N.B.: The climbing gym will be discussed on Oct. 4 during a public meeting of elected officials. If you would like to voice your support for a climbing gym big enough to accommodate our community’s current and future needs, see here.

On Sept. 1, Teton County Parks and Recreation Department (“Parks & Rec”) hosted a (virtual) climbing gym stakeholders’ meeting to discuss the Teton County Recreation Center climbing gym project.

The gym’s architects, builders, owner’s agent and independent climbing wall consultants all participated in the presentation, which focused on preliminary designs.

Also present were members of The Teton Climbers’ Coalition (“TCC”), which has been working with Parks & Rec to ensure the gym meets the community’s needs. Central to the TCC’s recommendations for the gym is the development of one big enough to accommodate both current and future demand.

The TCC has welcomed the efforts taken by Parks & Rec to incorporate its recommendations into the gym’s development, including the retention of an independent climbing wall consultant company and increasing the gym’s size from the initial allocation of 5,750 square feet to the current allocation 8,500 square feet.

Parks & Rec retained Entre-Prises (“EP”) as the independent climbing wall consultant company in May. During the Sept. 1 presentation, the TCC was encouraged by EP’s preliminary designs, which were creative, efficient and maximized the square footage while still incorporating social space—a key ingredient to a successful gym. 

The TCC’s central concern, however, remains unchanged. For the reasons noted here, the amount of space allocated to the climbing gym remains inadequate, and will likely result in wait lists to manage crowding and demand.

Teton County has a population of ca. 23,000 people. The preliminary designs for the Rec Center gym presented on Sept. 1 feature 10,940 total square feet of climbing surface area.

For context, Canmore, in Alberta, Canada, has a population of ca. 14,000. Their rec center climbing gym, Elevation Place, features 11,000 sq. ft. of climbing surface area.

Because Elevation Place is too small to meet the needs of the community, a wait list is used to manage demand.

Upon further review of the preliminary designs, the TCC believes a number of steps can be taken to allocate additional square footage to the gym without adversely affecting the expansion’s other programming.

The preliminary designs for the gym include a meeting room. There are at least 15 public meeting venues around Jackson currently available to the public. See here. 

The meeting room in the rec center plans is thus redundant. The TCC believes the space should be allocated to the climbing gym, which will be in daily use, instead.

The TCC furthermore encourages Parks & Rec to explore additional efficiencies in design revisions in order to allocate more square footage to the gym.

Possible ways to do so include the following:

  • Consolidate Parks and Rec Offices
    • Space in the gym area is allocated for offices for Parks and Rec personnel (at a time when Parks and Rec cannot fill all their positions)
    • The offices for Rec Center Manager and Customer Service could be moved into adjacent areas outside the gym’s footprint, or could be consolidated with existing rec center offices. Not every Parks & Rec employee needs his or her own office, particularly when staffing existing positions has become increasingly difficult.
  • More Effective Design
    • The climbing gym Reception Seating area could be moved to the adjacent “Reception Seating” outside the footprint of the gym
    • The Lockers in the climbing gym area could be moved to to the adjacent “Check-in kiosks” outside the gym’s footprint
    • The Rentals in the climbing gym area could be moved into the adjacent “Retail” area outside the gym’s footprint

Once the climbing gym has been constructed, it will serve the community’s needs for decades to come. As Jackson’s population and climbing’s popularity continues to grow, the limited square footage included in the current designs will become increasingly insufficient to meet demand.

If you would like to encourage Parks & Rec and Town and County elected officials to allocate additional square footage to the gym, here are ways to do so.

 Additional details from Sept. 1 preliminary design presentation are as follows:

Total size of gym:

  • 8,500 total square feet
  • 10,940 total square feet of climbing surface area
  • 980 square feet of bouldering on the first floor
  • 1,160 square feet of bouldering on the second floor 

Max capacity

  • Gym will accommodate up to 75 climbers/150 people total at a time
  • Gym features 45 belay stations (for context, the Enclosure climbing gym had 55) 

Amenities

  • 60% roped climbing/40% bouldering  
  • Walls run from 35’- 45’ high  
  • Lead-only climbing: 5-8 belay stations. The rest would be top ropable
  • Bouldering wall on first floor: 15’ tall; up to 8’ of cave/overhanging terrain
  • Climbing mezzanine on 2nd floor: almost entirely devoted to bouldering; could include systems boards/moonboards etc

TCC Receives Microgrant from The Community Foundation for Stewardship Work

Rodeo Wall and Hoback Shield are two of the Jackson Hole climbing community’s premier climbing areas. Both lie on Bridger-Teton National Forest public lands, and both require stewardship work that exceeds the financial abilities of the BTNF to execute.

To assist, The TCC developed two separate Adopt-A-Crag stewardship projects, and applied for a microgrant from The Community Foundation of Jackson Hole to help offset associated costs.

On Tuesday, Aug. 31, The Community Foundation informed the TCC that they had received a $400 micro grant for the projects.

Stewardship Director Chris led the stewardship project at Rodeo Wall last week after two previous efforts had been thwarted by weather.

The Adopt-A-Crag of Hoback Shield was postponed by the discovery of cultural resources at the crag’s base. The project will be rescheduled at a later date.

Our thanks go out to The Community Foundation of Jackson Hole for their help in making our stewardship work possible.

 

Teton Boulder Park Restored to Full Potential

On Monday, Aug. 30, TCC Stewardship Director Chris Owen and community member Russel Adams worked with Parks and Rec personnel to replace several hundred cross-threaded backer plates at The Teton Boulder Park—a project that had been sidelined since the Park’s development in 2010.

Spearheaded by the TCC, the effort was part of a six-month project to restore the Boulder Park to its full potential.

Construction of The Teton Boulder Park was completed by the manufacturer, Entre Prises (EP), in 2010. Since that time, hundreds of climbing hold backer plates—the plates inside the boulders that hold the climbing holds in place—had become cross-threaded, with bolts sheared off inside them that rendered them unusable.

As the majority of these backer plates were concentrated at the corners of the boulders, where holds are particularly important, they had increasingly compromised the boulders’ functionality and thus its value to the public.

In May, the Teton Climbers’ Coalition brought this issue to the attention of Parks and Recreation and offered to help with the backer-plate replacements.

Due to staff shortages, Parks and Rec was unable to perform the maintenance without help, so the TCC sent out a call for volunteers.

Community members Will Taggart, Amanda Moyer, John Reed, Hans Johnstone, Russell Adams and Mark Follis joined TCC board members Charlie Thomas and Chris Owen in offering their assistance.

Over the past few months, Taggart and Thomas met with Parks and Rec maintenance employee Cory Pearson at 6:30 a.m. on at least three occasions to begin replacing the backer plates.

On Monday, August 30, Owen and Adams worked with Pearson and an Entre Prises representative to replace the remaining cross-threaded plates—several hundred in total.

In addition to serving as the TCC’s Stewardship Director, Owen has overseen the route setting at the Boulder Park for the past three years. All the route setting at the Park is done by volunteers, with Owen providing the majority of the work.

Of the Aug. 30 effort, Owen said, “The stuck bolts had to be located and marked so a worker inside could grind off the fiberglass backs that hold the bolts in place. Then, new backer plates had to be aligned and epoxied into place.”

The work was hot and dirty, but the end result is a Boulder Park that has been returned to its full potential—and then some, as volunteers added backer plates to recessed nooks of the wall that didn’t have any to begin with.

“All of this will hopefully make setting routes more fun and allow more space on the boulder to be utilized,” said Owen.

Please join us in commending the volunteers for their assistance, and Chris Owen in particular for his help. Both Parks and Rec and the climbing community are in your debt.

Rodeo Wall Stewardship Work Completed

On Thursday, August 26, The Teton Climbers’ Coalition hosted a volunteer day to finish its stewardship work at Rodeo Wall.

Last year, in a project made possible by the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole, Teton Mountaineering, The American Alpine Club, Access Fund and the Bridger-Teton National Forest, The Teton Climbers’ Coalition coordinated an Adopt-A-Crag project at Rodeo Wall. Fifteen volunteers built a new retaining wall at the base of the crag, widened the access trail’s upper section, and installed straw erosion control blankets over informal, user-created trails to prevent further erosion and damage of habitat.

An article on the project appeared in the Jackson Hole News & Guide here.

This year, led by TCC Stewardship Director Chris Owen, with assistance from Stewardship Team members Garrick Hart, Neil Grimaldi and Tom Hargis, volunteers used railroad ties to create steps and belay platforms at the base of climbs with poor. Volunteers carried the ties up from the parking lot to the wall, where team members excavated, drilled, and secured them into place with rebar, then backfilled them with dirt and rock mined from rebenching sections of the approach trail.

The project was executed in cooperation with the Bridger Teton National Forest and supported by a grant from the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole. Our many thanks to the volunteers who stepped forward to lend a hand.

Aug. 26 Hoback Shield Stewardship Project Postponed; Rodeo Wall Project Rescheduled in its Place

The Hoback Shield Adopt-A-Crag Project scheduled for this Thursday, August 26, has been postponed. Climbers instead will focus their stewardship work on the Rodeo Wall area, a project that was cancelled last week due to weather.

The switch in objectives was prompted by a recent discovery of potential cultural resources in the Hoback Shield area.

“Due to the area’s location on a bench above the river, and the historical descriptions of a battle that took place in that area, we know it has a high potential for cultural resources to be present,” said Tim Farris, the Trails/Wilderness Supervisor for the Bridger-Teton National Forest. “We need to follow the proper NEPA process before disturbing any ground.”

To accommodate, The Teton Climbers’ Coalition has rescheduled its Adopt-A-Crag work at the Rodeo Wall area this Thursday from 2-7 p.m. Volunteers are encouraged to participate.

The Hoback Shield project will be rescheduled once the BTNF has completed its diligence on the area.

 

Teton Climbers’ Coalition to Host The Boulderdash Community Bouldering Series

This year’s Town Pump bouldering competition ends August 17. To keep the community bouldering into the fall, The Teton Climbers’ Coalition will host The Boulderdash, a community bouldering series, on Tuesday evenings from August 24-September 28 at the Teton Boulder Park.

The family-friendly event will take place from 5:30-7:30 p.m. It is free and open to the public. No registration is required to participate.

The intent of The Boulderdash is to foster community within the Teton climbing community. Unlike a competition, the event will require bouldering skills plus a dash of strategy on the part of participants.

The event’s first hour and a half will be the “warm-up,” in which participants climb and strategize for the event’s final push. At 7:00 p.m., the “Boulderdash”—a thirty-minute bouldering “sprint” in which participants accumulate as many points as possible—will begin.

Only the points accumulated during the final half hour will be included in participants’ scores. To make matters more interesting, participants can only include boulder problems they’ve successfully climbed during the “warm-up” in their final scores.

The Boulderdash will thus require climbers to reserve enough “go-juice” during the first hour and a half to accumulate as many points as possible during the final half hour.

The Boulderdash is open to everyone. Those interested in participating may simply show up.

 

Current Climbing Gym Plans Inadequate

In the November 2019 election, Teton County voters approved $22,000,000 for a “Teton County/Jackson Recreation Center Expansion and Renovation, Community Climbing Gym, King Street Extension, and Stormwater Treatment.”

On August 10th and 11th, from 11 a.m.—7 p.m. at the Rec Center, Teton County Parks and Rec will host a Community Open House about the expansion, including the development of the climbing gym.

According to a press release, the Open House will allow community members to ask questions and provide their input to Parks & Rec on the expansion’s initial designs, which allocate approximately 7,200 square feet to the climbing gym.

The Enclosure Climbing Gym, which had 700 members when it closed in 2014, had 10,000 square feet of climbing area. The Rec Center climbing gym will have more users than The Enclosure did—one of the reasons more than 600 community members signed a petition earlier this year calling for a bigger facility.

Last summer, more than 300 community members completed a survey on the climbing gym. 85% of respondents indicated that the square footage initially proposed for the gym would be inadequate for the needs of the community.

In April 2021, community members sent more than 80 letters to elected officials requesting that the gym’s size be increased to a minimum of 10,000 to 12,000 square feet

These requests align with the reasons outlined by The Teton Climbers’ Coalition that the climbing gym should be big enough to meet current and future community needs.

Feedback gathered during the Aug. 10-11 Open House will be used by Parks & Rec to refine the designs and begin the development of construction documents. Construction is estimated to begin in May of 2022 and reach completion by February 2024.

For more information on the Community Open House, click here.