- Debbie Juniewicz Contributing Writer
SPRINGFIELD – Bigger and better – Mad River Gorge & Nature Preserve will soon be a hot spot for climbers.
A recent land acquisition by the Clark County Park District will be a big win for rock climbing enthusiasts in the region.
“It will be Ohio’s largest natural rock-climbing area,” said Carol Kennard, executive director of the Clark County Park District. “And I think people will be impressed by the variety of climbing challenges for beginners as well as experienced climbers.”
The cliffs – about 45-50 feet at their highest point – have been on private land for decades but the park district was recently able to purchase the land with the help of a Clean Ohio Conservation Grant. The attraction will be available to climbers at no cost.
Excitement is already building among climbing enthusiasts including Jack Santo, president of the Ohio Climbers Coalition.
“Typically, Ohio is not much of a climbing mecca,” Santo said. “If people want to climb, they usually head to Kentucky or West Virginia. But this will definitely be a destination. It’s big enough and challenging enough that people won’t need to head out of state.”
>> RELATED: Dayton mountain bike park could open by summer.
Climbers will be able to scale cliffs, mostly in the 40- to 50-foot range. According to Santo, that’s high for Ohio.
“But the thing that’s really neat about it is the different styles of climbing that this is going to offer,” Santo said. “There will be a great beginner area and challenging routes for all skill levels.
“And there is no place else in the state, that I’m aware of, where you can do traditional climbing and sport climbing.”
Springfield has been securing its foothold as a hub for outdoor enthusiasts. The ECO Sports Corridor Whitewater Park has four recreational whitewater kayaking areas and paddlers can navigate nine whitewater features as they pass beneath the Springfield Regional Medical Center. The natural limestone shelf-rapids, further upstream, complete a 6-mile run from Buck Creek State Park, through downtown.
Now, Clark County can add climbing to its outdoor adventure resume.
>> RELATED: Now you can pedal and pub at the same time.
“I think this will be a definite economic boost to the area,” Santo said.
In addition to the climbing area, Mad River Gorge & Nature Preserve will also have areas for picnicking and camping.
There is, however, some work to be done before the grand opening on May 21. The Ohio Climbers Coalition, in partnership with the Access Fund, will host a large stewardship event to clean up the gorge on May 21.
“We have cleanup to do, stairs and retaining walls to build,” Santo said. “But it will be worth it.”