Activity open to students and community members
by Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
Royalton physical education (PE) instructor Ryan Marwitz thought a rock climbing wall would be a cool thing to have in Royalton. He had enjoyed rock and cliff climbing in high school. That vision is now a reality, with the wall in place and staff members trained and waiting for students.
“This is a safe environment to overcome both physical and mental challenges,” he said. “One of the big reasons we have it is the benefits for the kids. If they are maybe afraid of heights or unsure of trying something new, this is positive risk-taking.”
Marwitz, who has been teaching in Royalton since 2008, began looking at climbing walls on the Internet in about 2010. He researched cost, installation requirements and possible locations for the wall. He discussed the possibility with former Activities Director (now Secondary Principal) Joel Swenson.
“It wasn’t until about early 2011, that we started our first fundraiser,” Marwitz said. “We had a solid idea of the costs involved. We talked to the Royalton Fire Department first.”
Funds from the Fire Department and from a student-led fundraiser through Bernick’s Pepsi that involved collecting more than 50,000 Gatorade caps for $500, got the ball rolling for the wall.
“We filled out probably 10 grant applications,” said Marwitz. “We received a grant from the Initiative Foundation in March 2013.”
Royalton students sponsored a “Rock for the Rock” fundraising concert in April. Three area bands plus a band from Royalton played to raise about $600.
While continuing to look online for possible funding sources, Marwitz came across a $10,000 grant offered by the General Mills Health Foundation.
“It had to do with youth, health and was community-oriented,” he said. “There were 50 being offered nationwide and I thought it was a long shot.”
But the funding came through and that is what brought the fundraising total up to cover the costs of the wall.
“We had enough money to put up some of it and the grant allowed us to add more features,” Marwitz said.
A grant from CentraCare Health Foundation that came through in fall 2012, required that it be used within one year, so there was an expiration date that needed to be met.
In addition to those funding sources already named, another major contributor was the Nemec family.
The wall was installed by Nicros Inc. of St. Paul in early July. It is a simulated rock surface with a total cost of $29,000.
There are four routes mapped up the wall, indicated by different color tabs attached to each hold. An overhang at the top increased the difficulty for two of the routes. Routes can also be made more challenging by having the handholds moved.
An 8-foot folded mat is locked across the bottom of the climbing wall when it’s not in use.
Teachers and staff were trained Aug. 1, including Marwitz, secondary health and PE teacher Kari Meek, elementary PE teacher Aaron Meier, wrestling coach Kevin Pressler, cross country coach Michael Marschel and business teacher Stephanie Burg.
“We plan to use it as a regular unit in gym classes,” said Marwitz. “Three of the four routes have an ‘auto belay’ feature; the kids lock in with their harness and the mechanism does all the work.”
The fourth route offers a traditional way of climbing, with climbers being anchored by people on the ground.
“They learn to tie off (belay) for each other,” Marwitz said. “There are certain knots they have to learn in order to use it.”
The wall is available for coaches to use with their teams as a teamwork exercise, to reinforce good communication and cooperation.
“It’s another way for kids to be active. As a phy ed teacher, I’m always looking for other ways to have kids move and exercise,” Marwitz said. “We need to stay active throughout our lives.”
Rock climbing is a non-traditional physical activity that could draw in members of the community.
“It’s like the disc golf course — it will be open to people in the community,” said Marwitz. “We’ll see what curiosity and demand there is. I’m willing to work with a group of people who may want to try it.”
“We’ve added a frisbee golf course and now, the rock climbing wall,” said Principal Joel Swenson. “When I was in school we played things like dodgeball. I’ve seen our kids cross country skiing, rollerblading and other lifelong activities that are tremendously valuable. I’m very excited about our kids having the opportunity to learn these skills and get involved in these activities.”
For more information, contact Marwitz at (320) 584-4233.