Grand Valley climbs to new heights with ropes courses | PostIndependent.com

Grand Valley climbs to new heights with ropes courses

One of the largest Garfield County Federal Mineral Lease District grants awarded this fall came thanks primarily to a few students who wanted to make real change in their community.

Over $1 million was awarded to several programs through the Garfield FMLD grant program, varying from infrastructure improvements to health and safety equipment.

Among them, though, was a $147,000 grant to the Garfield County School District 16 and the Parachute and Battlement Mesa Parks and Recreation District for a Grand Valley challenge and high ropes course.

As Grand Valley High School teacher Clint Whitley explained, it all started with students Sierra Keif, Tyler Miller, Caleb Frink and Mason Lerma, among others, and a small piece of paper.

“Climbing brings in different groups and cliques and gives students an opportunity to put themselves in a vulnerable state.”

— Caleb Frink, student

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Miller recollected that they were all sitting in the cafeteria one day last fall when each was handed a piece of paper that read "Top Secret" across the top.

A few students from each grade were invited, Whitley said, as they embarked on a project that would help the Grand Valley community climb to new heights.

Whitley said the students were recommended by teachers and their peers as being hard workers who might want to make change in the community.

"We knew this was not something that was guaranteed, but we wanted to present a project that could benefit others in the community," he explained.

After discussing the upcoming grant opportunity with the Federal Mineral Lease District and determining that the 2018 fall cycle was a more realistic option to go after rather than the spring cycle, the students got to work.

"A lot of the kids were really outdoorsy, and a high ropes course sounded really cool," Miller said of the initial meeting. "We saw it as a benefit to others in the community."

The students envision local police officers and firefighters using the ropes course to train, as well as an opportunity for anybody in the community to come out and use it.

"Climbing brings in different groups and cliques and gives students an opportunity to put themselves in a vulnerable state," Frink added.

After a few meetings, the students separated into three groups, one that focused on making sure all the physical materials were completed and turned it on time, another that informed the public of the project, and a third group that wrote the grant application.

By spring, the grant application was nearly finished and several students, including Sierra Keif and Miller, went before the District 16 Board of Education to present their idea and ask for matching funds.

"Being in such a small town between Rifle and Grand Junction, most of what you need is in one of those places and there tends to be not much draw in Parachute in terms of things to do," Lerma explained. "We want to draw people to our small town."

Earlier this month, the Grand Valley rope course was announced as one of the seven projects funded through the traditional grant program with the FMLD. Whitley hopes for construction to begin on the high ropes course, located on the athletic fields at GVHS, as early as next spring.

"We're hoping to start construction in May with completion in the summer as we want to have programs starting next fall before it gets too cold," he explained.

"Rock climbing is a great way to challenge yourself physically and mentally," Frink said. "You deal with extreme heights, complete a task, experience teambuilding and have to work with others."

"There's a social trusting component as well because someone has to take care of you and belay you," Miller added. "It's not just a challenge for yourself."

They hope that someday soon, home rooms or advisories from Grand Valley High School will come together for the activity.

azorn@citizentelegram.com