By Leslie Pugmire Hole

The Bulletin

REDMOND — The city of Redmond is considering opening a recreational attraction that may be one-of-a-kind in the world of recreational rock climbing: a challenging climbing route under the arches of a bridge. The bridge in question is the Maple Avenue Bridge spanning the Dry Canyon recreational area.

Although there are outdoor climbing routes on bridges over rivers and on urban overpasses, climbing over a city park is thought to be a new concept.

“I was surprised when it was proposed and surprised when it passed muster with risk management, but then I don’t know that much about climbing,” said Heather Richards, community development director.

Climber Ian Caldwell and Annie McVay, Redmond parks and administration division manager, presented the idea to the Redmond Parks Commission on Wednesday night for feedback, and it unanimously voted to OK the project. More discussions, including one with the Redmond City Council, would have to take place before serious work begins, McVay said.

Caldwell has been climbing Smith Rock for more than 10 years, putting in so many hours that he’s been called its “mayor.” He brought the idea to the city last spring after hearing support in the climbing community for the project.

“There’s plenty of vertical climbing at Smith Rock, and people come from all over the world for it, but there’s nothing like this,” he said, pointing out that the most popular trend in climbing now is steep overhanging routes. An attraction such as this has the potential to put Redmond on the map and bring in a new demographic of visitors who will frequent local businesses, he added.

As envisioned, the 60-foot, concrete, three-arch bridge, which opened in 2006, would have one climbing route initially, beginning at the bottom of a central support and heading up to the apex of the arch. Bolts would be installed along the route for safety harnesses and stone-colored holds for hands and feet. Unlike indoor climbing gyms with myriad brightly colored holds and many route options, the arch would have only select holds leading climbers to one route, Caldwell said.

“I think it’s an amazing opportunity to develop a new recreational draw in Redmond and a new way for our community to get recognition,” said McVay. She is a sport climber, too, and said that although she doesn’t have the skill for climbs like the one proposed, she knows many intermediate and expert climbers who would jump at the chance.

Caldwell, a member of a nonprofit that benefits Smith Rock State Park’s climbing resources, said it would not be hard to find experienced volunteers to design the route and install the bolts and holds.

“I don’t think I’ll have any trouble raising money for the materials,” he said.

Caldwell works for the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, where his position often involves determining how communities and surrounding park facilities can benefit from each other. Smith Rock is an international magnet for recreation, Caldwell said, and Redmond should think about how it can maximize its proximity.

If the climbing facility is installed, McVay said, the city would maintain control of the site and set standards for the equipment used.

“In Oregon, if a recreational facility is part of the public parks system, there is an immunity from liability,” Richards said. “As long as people don’t pay for use of the facility, state law shields public agencies.” Recreational immunity for municipal or state governments has been tested in the courts of Oregon and other states numerous times and never lost, said McVay.

To prevent inexperienced climbers or reckless passers-by from climbing the bridge, Caldwell said, the beginning of the route could easily be made “self-selecting” with the placement and type of holds used to block any nonexpert climber from getting on the supports.

“As a parks employee and a climber, safety is topmost on my mind,” he said.

The next steps would involve formation of a nonprofit or a partnership with the Redmond Parks Foundation, Caldwell said, then fundraising and installation of bolts and holds.

“It’s very time-consuming to install them, so it will take a while,” he said. “I replaced four bolts at Smith Rock recently, and it was a 10-hour day.”

— Reporter: 541-548-2186,

lpugmire@bendbulletin.com

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