Climbers aim to break down barriers by building walls

Walk into College Park’s Tracey Wyatt Recreation Center, and the new addition is impossible to miss: a big indoor rock climbing wall. But the story behind the new attraction is even bigger than the wall itself.

Professional climbers Kai Lightner and Kevin Jorgenson led the way for the new climbing wall, which officially opened to the public late last month. Lightner is the founder of Climbing for Change, an organization dedicated to making the outdoor industry more diverse and inclusive, and Jorgenson is the founder of 1Climb, which has a mission of introducing 100,000 kids to the sport of climbing. With funding from Adidas, the climbers hope the College Park wall will draw new climbers from the local community — especially area youth.

"Throughout my career, it was pretty obvious that I was the only person of color, or the only Black person at least, in most spaces in the climbing industry," says Lightner, a 12-time national climbing champion. "We want to make this community more inclusive, and we think the first step to that is trying to put as much representation into the sport as possible.  It really starts with a project like this one."  

Metro Atlanta’s Stone Summit Climbing & Fitness is also a partner in the project, helping with wall operations and programming at their own facilities; the City of College Park has also pledged to offer transportation assistance to those interested in climbing. 

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"And so, we created this triangle of a program that's really going to help kids, inner-city kids, kids who live in public housing to be able to really get into the sport," Lightner says.

The Tracey Wyatt Recreation Center is located at 2300 Godby Road in College Park; the wall is available for use to both city residents and non-residents.

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