The idea for a climbing wall inside of the North Island Secondary School (NISS) gymnasium came about from an offhand conversation.
“Greg Muirhead (NISS’ Outdoor Pursuits, Math, Science, Tourism and field Studies teacher) walked into my office when we’d just begun our outdoor education programming and vision for the North Island, and asked if we would be able to build a climbing wall,” said NISS Principal Jay Dixon in a previous interview back in May.
“I paused for a moment, and the first question I asked was ‘how much’. He told me approximately how much it would be, and then my second question was ‘why not?’ Our students and community members soon heard about our conversation and started bringing in cheques. One student opened a GoFundMe account online and soon it rippled from a small grassroots community movement all the way to a place where the Port McNeill Rotary joined in to support it. It basically grew from a conversation into something that will in fact be opening.”
As 2016 comes to a close, Dixon confirmed that construction is complete on the wall, and they are now “working on finalizing our insurance and liability waivers and are moving towards our training of staff.”
He added that the wall has “a bouldering section for people that don’t want to climb above ten feet, which is excellent for kids, and there are six other routes on the wall of different ability levels. It goes right up to the rafters of our gym, which is approximately 40 ft. high. We also have four auto-belays, which are safety devices in case anyone lets go of the wall, they will be slowed down safely to the ground.”
NISS currently has two certified instructors, Muirhead and Mark Taylor, who will be training other supervisors for the wall, and NISS is aiming to have it open for community members as soon as February.
“We are looking at having our grand opening in the beginning of February, second semester,” stated Dixon. “We will be having a big open house to showcase the wall and have a celebration. This wall is here because of community support, and the energy that the students and community members brought to it. We want to thank and celebrate that effort.”
Rates are currently being determined, but “they will be affordable rates, and all the proceeds will go back into buying more gear, safety equipment, and trying to build our wall bigger,” Dixon said. “We have a few other smaller phases for the wall in mind, a caving section and a little more advanced route on the wall, there’s room for improvement but we want to get started and get people on the wall as soon as possible.”
They are currently still looking for donations, so if you would like to donate or buy a panel on the wall, please contact the school.
In the future, they are aiming to have lessons, a club, and hopefully see some competitive climbers come out of the North Island.
When asked what the local communities responses have been to the project, Dixon replied that they have been amazing.
“We’ve had community members come in with donations, businesses come in with donations, and most importantly, the Port McNeill Rotary Club raised about $26,000 through some of their fundraising events. We are also very thankful for Abernathy Construction for doing the building.”
Dixon added that the vision is “to make NISS a hub for recreation and education in the evenings, not just for Port McNeill, but the whole triport area. We have a beautiful facility here, and with a recent agreement with North Island College for adult education, we would like to see more and more community members come out and take part in the education and recreation type opportunities that we offer.”