Climbers from all over the world recognize Moab as a premier destination for some of the most challenging routes in America.
On Friday, May 13, the sport became more accessible than ever here, as volunteers, business owners, donors and city and state officials gathered with residents for the grand opening of Moab Boulder Park in Lions Park at the city’s north entrance.
As project leaders prepared for the ribbon-cutting ceremony, dozens of young adventurers ducked under the official red bow, scampering around the three giant, man-made boulders and trying out the routes. The sight was representative of the vision that Moab Boulder Park committee chair Christina Sloan began formulating three years ago, when she realized she needed a safe place to introduce her young daughters and their friends to one of her favorite pastimes.
“It’s the equivalent of the Moab Brand trails for climbing,” she said. “We’ve got the Lazy EZ and Rusty Spurs for bikers; now we’ve got the Boulder Park for climbers.”
While the climbing options in and around Moab feature a wide variety of beautiful and challenging routes, rockfall, proximity to highways and long approach hikes mean none of them are easily accessible to families, particularly the young and the elderly, Sloan said.
But those who climb know that the sport can serve as an important gateway to other outdoor recreation, and by extension connection to place and community, she said. That’s the vision that inspired nearly 100 individual, business and public donors to work together to bring the park to life.
“We want to make recreation accessible to more people,” Moab City Parks, Recreation and Trails Director Tif Miller said. “This was about getting people out to the parks and increasing the ability for people to come out as a family and have the opportunity to enjoy the unique activities Moab has to offer.”
Local climber Ryan Moran, a member of the local nonprofit Friends of Indian Creek, has been taking his kids to climb on some of the more remote routes since they were old enough to walk. He said he can see the park making a significant impact on young climbers’ entry into the sport.
“You can’t take kids to Potash and Mill Creek – it’s too dangerous,” he said. “I can definitely see where [the park] will be an important way to get that initial exposure to climbing for a lot of kids.”
Adults who are interested in the sport are looking forward to using the park, as well.
Moab Mountain Bike Instruction owner Sylvi Fae considers herself a “dabbler” – she has a harness, shoes and a helmet, but none of the hardware required to climb Moab’s advanced routes. She’s looking forward to spending time at the park and becoming a stronger climber.
“What’s cool about this is that it’s super accessible from town,” Fae said. “Just about anyone can hop on bikes, take a picnic and head out to play on the boulders.”
Initially, Sloan said there were those who couldn’t understand her drive to build a park that replicates an experience inherent to the natural landscape. As momentum built, however, her vision took on a life of its own: Fresh chalk marks can already be found along most of the routes.
Contracting firms Ben Byrd Construction and AW Construction donated labor and equipment, and Red Cliffs Lodge and individual community members extended funding assistance. The Grand County Recreation Special Service District and the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development also provided grant funding.
All proceeds were handled through Friends of Indian Creek, which aims to promote responsible recreation and conservation of its eponymous waterway and surrounding areas.
The artificial boulders, which were designed and built by ID Sculpture of Gunnison, Colorado, caught the attention of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development. The office gave the project $35,000 – 9 percent of total state funding for recreation last year, Sloan said.
Among the park’s innovative design attributes are safety features like its state-of-the-art surface, which is more than 5 inches thick. It’s composed of 23,000 pounds of used tires and 10,000 pounds of recycled Nike shoes, Sloan said.
The routes were also designed to decrease the risk that climbers will pull onto the top of the boulders before they’ve reached the skill level necessary to ascend and descend safely.
New bouldering park makes sport accessible to families
“What’s cool about this is that it’s super accessible from town … Just about anyone can hop on bikes, take a picnic and head out to play on the boulders.”
To learn more about the park, go to: www.facebook.com/MoabBoulderPark/.