Building a Boulder

Kalispell Boulder Project raising funds for new rock climbing features at Lawrence Park

By Tristan Scott

A new outdoor amenity is rolling toward Kalispell as a group of local rock climbers build momentum for construction of a bouldering park, which will offer climbers and non-climbers of all abilities the opportunity to scramble up artificial rock features designed to correspond with the natural setting.

The nonprofit Kalispell Boulder Project is spearheaded by a group of Flathead Valley climbers and outdoor enthusiasts who have been raising money to fund the project in hopes of having the boulders installed by late summer 2016. The group has been mounting community support through a series of fundraising events in the Flathead Valley, with a host of film festivals, climbing events and other junkets slated in the coming months.

Bouldering is a form of climbing that is performed without the use of ropes or harnesses. It can be done without any equipment, but many climbers use special climbing shoes to help secure footholds.

The concept of bouldering parks is growing in popularity in Montana and across western states, and artificial features designed to mirror a region’s natural rock formations have cropped up in Bozeman, Helena and Great Falls. In Kalispell, the boulders will be designed to reflect the region’s limestone or sedimentary rock.

Through the Kalispell Community Foundation, the Kalispell Boulder Project has established a fund while garnering support from the Kalispell Parks and Recreation Department, which will provide the space for the bouldering features at the southern end of Lawrence Park in Kalispell. After the boulders are installed, the city of Kalispell will assume responsibility for the park.

The goal is to raise $100,000 for the manufacturing and installation of the concrete boulders, and Jandy Cox, manager at Rocky Mountain Outfitter in Kalispell, said the fundraising efforts have been met by strong community support.

“The initial idea was sort of my brainchild. I had heard about a similar campaign in Helena, and Bozeman has had a bouldering park for a decade. I kind of thought this would be a great fit for Kalispell, so we got a really dynamic group together and everyone is really committed to making it work,” Cox said. “I’m 100 percent convinced that we are going to meet our goal.”

Kalispell Parks and Recreation director Chad Fincher said the city is supportive of the effort, and the boulders will be a complementary addition to Lawrence Park, where new landscaping will surround the rock features.

“We have the space for it and they have the energy to fundraise so we are excited,” Fincher said. “We think it’s a great amenity, and it will provide a different dynamic for park users.”

Natural woodchips will surround the bouldering area at a depth that will meet the safety threshold for falls of a certain height. The two boulders will be 11 feet high and 16 feet long and about 12 feet deep.

The boulders will be designed and molded so that climbers can use the natural-looking rock surface, complete with cracks and other climbable features, to attempt more difficult routes, while hand-and-foot holds will be bolted to the surface to create more positive climbing elements for beginners and advanced climbers alike. Escape routes at the top of the boulders will allow climbers to easily descend, and some climbers use their own bouldering “crash pads” while attempting challenging routes to cushion a fall.

“Without a doubt it’s a great way to introduce kids to climbing,” Cox said. “The goal would be to have something where you can take groups of kids and they can climb in their tennis shoes, while the more advanced climbers will foster a culture of teaching new skills. The project is really about offering alternative, healthy activities for kids to do in the outdoors. It’s sort of in our DNA to want to scramble on stuff, and it will be an amenity that gives Kalispell some additional mountain culture.”

Fundraising efforts began in earnest with the Banff Mountain Film Festival in November, when Cox said the Kalispell Boulder Project raised $5,000, with the Northwest Montana Association of Realtors putting forward a $1,000 donation.

Local businesses, community leaders and media groups have helped move the burgeoning project toward its goal, including George and Elma Graphic Design and Northern Mountain Films, Inc. The project will begin sending out mailers to local businesses who wish to support it.

The next fundraising event is Beers for Boulders at the Kalispell Brewing Company on Feb. 17 at 5 p.m. For every beer sold, the brewery will donate $1 to the Kalispell Boulder Project. Raffle tickets are also available at Rocky Mountain Outfitters to win a pair of Yvette 112 Pure DPS skis, which retail at $1,300.

Donations to the Flathead Community Foundation, the nonprofit community fundraising arm, can be made at KalispellBoulderProject.com.

“I couldn’t be happier with how well things are rolling and what the community response has been,” Cox said. “I think this will be a strong addition to Kalispell’s mountain culture.”

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