Popular rock wall readying for summer camp despite controversy

College Park's controversial rock wall could open for summer camp. Photo credit: Mose James

Credit: Mose James

Credit: Mose James

College Park's controversial rock wall could open for summer camp. Photo credit: Mose James

While the future of College Park’s recreational climbing wall is uncertain, starting Wednesday the wall is undergoing maintenance and installation of a new mechanical device used to assist climbers, in preparation for children’s summer camp.

City Council has voted to have the popular wall taken down inside the Tracey Wyatt Recreation Complex, but College Park spokesperson Kameron Preston said Tuesday that the parks department has not yet been ordered to remove it. And now, even the unanimous vote for the wall’s removal is in question after a council member said he wants to change his vote.

“It’s still an open place that has to have its regular maintenance (and inspection),” Preston said of the climbing wall, which is scheduled to be open for the start of summer camp on Monday.

The wall was created during the pandemic by Kai Lightner, a professional rock climber who raised more than $100,000 for construction through his nonprofit, Climbing for Change. Lightner wanted to build the wall to provide free access to the sport for low income and minority youth.

The recreation center and wall benefited underserved children living on nearby Godby Road, according to Mayor Bianca Motley Broom, who has said the wall has had 15,000 visitors since opening in 2021.

Weeks ago, Councilwoman Tracie Arnold ordered the city manager to have the wall removed and has not stated her reason. Following pushback from Motley Broom and members of the public who want the wall to stay in place, the matter was brought to city council for a vote in early May.

In a unanimous 3-0 vote, council gave City Manager Emmanuel Adediran the authority to decide the fate of the wall and where it would be relocated.

But Councilman Roderick Gay says he’s changed his mind and wants to rescind his vote. While discussing a separate agenda item during a regular meeting last week, Gay began to argue with Arnold and brought up the unrelated rock wall.

“I reverse my vote on the wall,” Gay said, adding that he wants the next city council meeting agenda to include reconsideration of the previous vote on the rock wall.

Gay added that interest in the wall being razed was initiated by Tracey Wyatt, chair of the Business Industrial Development Authority and the namesake of the recreation center. Wyatt did not return an email or phone call inquiring about the matter.

Preston said the city’s recreation department is set to carry out business as planned regarding the wall unless otherwise directed.

“In general, it will be ready to go” for the start of summer camp if the wall passes inspection, Preston added.