The largest rock-climbing area in the state will open Sunday in Clark County but first the natural attraction must be cleaned up.
The Mad River Gorge and Nature Preserve will be a 100-acre property that consists of trails, climbing cliffs and the Mad River. Much of the land was covered with garbage as it had been used as an illegal dumping ground for years.
“We are getting ready for a big weekend. We’ve got an anticipated 200 to 300 volunteers coming out (Saturday),” said Carol Kennard, executive director of the Clark County Combined Park District.
The district received an $800,000 Clean Ohio Conservation Fund Grant from the Ohio Public Works Commission to purchase the land for the state’s largest rock climbing park.
Half of the money will be used for the acquisition, Kennard said, and the other half for the cleanup.
“For decades people have been dumping trash over the cliffs,” she said. “It was an easy way to get rid of trash back in the day.”
Park staff members and volunteers now have a big job to clean it all up, she said.
The area has been in the process of being cleaned up for months before opening day. Volunteers also spent Friday morning cleaning up the gorge, using a crane, several Dumpsters, construction equipment on site to haul trash out.
The Clark County Solid Waste District provided 100 bagsters to help. They were filled at the bottom of the gorge with tires, propane tanks, cables and old toys then hoisted out by the crane.
Aaron Boyd, a volunteer who’s also a climber, is happy the area is finally being reclaimed.
“We are making it clean for the general public,” he said. “It’s going to be a nice rock-climbing area.”
Climbing associations in the state have told the Clark County Park District that the new park will be the largest climbing area in Ohio, Kennard said. The preserve has about 40 to 50 cliffs.
Boyd’s happy that something like it is close to home.
“I’ve been a climber for about 20 years and it’s not easy being a climber in Ohio,” Boyd said.
He lives about 30 minutes away from the preserve and said this will make his hobby much easier to enjoy.
Saturday more volunteers will arrive to clean up the remainder of the park. They also will help the Ohio Climbers’ Coalition build trails and natural steps and remove invasive plants like honeysuckle, Kennard said.
Food trucks will be on site for lunch.
Outdoor vendors, raffles, silent auctions and outdoor competitions will also be available for volunteers after cleanup.
At noon Sunday, the park district will host a grand opening of the nature preserve. The event will include climbing demonstrations and nature hikes along the Mad River.
This is the park is for everyone, Kennard said.
“Beginner climbers, there will be spots where they can climb and then there are some more challenging areas where experienced climbers can explore,” she said.
For more information about the park, visit clarkcountyparks.org.