The climbing wall season is in full swing now, after a period of uncertainty whether the wall would open at all this year.
“Prince Rupert Recreation Centre has shut down the Devil’s Crag Climbing Wall. It is unknown if this is temporary or permanent,” said a post on the Devil’s Crag Climbing Wall Facebook page on Sept. 12.
The Rupert climbing community previously had a revenue-sharing agreement with the civic centre. The group would get 50 cents on the dollar from what the wall brought in. That had been going for two years but the group was told the city was transitioning from that to hiring paid supervisors instead.
But when September rolled around, they were told the city hadn’t hired a new supervisor at all.
“We had just put in 250 volunteer hours to set up the entire wall and then we heard there was no supervisor,” said Christine Mueller, someone who has dedicated a lot of time over the past three and a half years to help revive the climbing wall.
The main group of volunteers was asked if any of them would like to run it and be an employee of the civic centre, which none of them wanted to do. They only wanted to climb.
“Then they came back and said this transition to a paid supervisor is being implemented and if we don’t have a supervisor, we can’t open,” said Mueller.
There was a bunch of scrambling after that to find people who could run the wall, and eventually Chris Ridler and April Link of Outer Coast Outfitters, were hired to supervise. The wall was re-opened on Sept. 29.
“They’re doing a great job. It’s definitely a learning curve for them but I think they’ll be great,” Mueller said.
Rupert Climbing met with the recreation commission after that and voiced their concerns, which included communication and education for city staff on the ground.
The response they got from the commission was more than positive.
“They were community-minded and we got a really good feeling from them in terms of support. They definitely pushed ahead with some of our concerns,” Mueller said.
Despite the September blip in the relationship between the city and the climbing community, Mueller has nothing bad to say about them. Instead, she feels like the city has been supportive and the two sides will continue a positive relationship going forward.
Now that the wall is re-opened and things have been resolved, there’s a new goal in mind: a new climbing wall in its own facility.
The push for a new wall is coming partly due to sharing a space with basketball, badminton and other games.
“There is lots of potential and the city is receptive to it. Now it’s just a matter of let’s formalize our relationship and see how we can make this work,” Muller said.
As it stands, the current wall has very limited potential for anything else because of space on the wall and sharing a facility with other sports. Muller said the climbing group gets booted out regularly.
The climbing community continues to grow in Prince Rupert. When Mueller first got the wall back into commission three-plus years ago, she was sometimes the only one climbing. Now, it’s not uncommon for approximately 20 people to show up on any given night.
Although the climbers’ relationship with the city hit a rough patch, things seem to be on the up and up now, what with rising attendance and talks of a new wall in its own facility.
“Hopefully a new wall is down the road. That’s really what the focus is, continuing a positive relationship and getting a new, dedicated facility. That’s the end game,” Mueller said.
Comments from the City of Prince Rupert were not provided in time for publication.