Columbia Valley Pioneer staff

After a long hiatus, it appears the climbing wall at J.A. Laird Elementary School will see a rebirth in public use.

Last week Rocky Mountain School District #6 trustees discussed the issue and leaned toward an agreement to allow public access while covering the risks. 

A new society has been created with its own board of directors that will see a license of occupation coordinate all non-school sanctioned climbing activities. 

“The society is currently seeking insurance which will be the final piece required to open to the public once again,” the district says.

The climbing wall hasn’t been available to the public since COVID-19 put a halt to it. Before that, people greatly enjoyed its use under certified instructor Herb Weller who provided the activity to the school and the community.

“Mr. Weller has put countless hours of his personal time and money into maintaining the climbing wall and equipment as well as growing the sport within the community,” said district secretary treasurer Alan Rice.

In a report to the board, Rice indicated that the district’s liability insurance provides coverage for school-sanctioned events including clubs or other activities outside of regular school hours.

But concerns quickly arose when public access was curtailed by the pandemic. However, Rice has been working with Weller and other individuals to brainstorm alternatives to bring back public use.

It was noted that Saanich school district on Vancouver Island was in a similar predicament with their climbing facility located in a high school. Now that society (Boulders Climbing Gym) has its own board of directors and maintains the wall as well as insurance for non-school sanctioned activities.

Rice said a similar arrangement could be a workable solution here for the Rocky Mountain district to establish a new group (society) to enter into a license of occupation to allow public access. He noted the board of directors are Weller, Jack Caldbick and Julie Beauchemin.

Rice said management is proposing that the district cover the cost of the wall’s annual inspection, while all other costs such as maintenance, equipment, training, and insurance be covered by the new society. It was noted that insurance will also be in place for all school-sanctioned activities.

While the previous concern was insurance for non-sanctioned events, Rice said the district has a long history working with Weller and the Invermere climbing community with no climbing-related incidents. 

He noted the license of occupation would detail the following requirements of the society: maintain the wall, ensure instructors are appropriately trained, ensure the receipt of liability (waiver) forms, ensure participants have completed orientation, and provide annual insurance certification.