Bozeman Boulder Initiative

Tuesday Jun. 1st, 2010

Julia Daigle

Still skirted with snow capped mountains, Bozeman has begun to stretch its limbs, with spring deciding to don its bashful head. Locals have learned to tiptoe that fine line between winter and spring, with both seasons playing an unrelentless game of tug-of-war. However, it looks as though spring has persevered, with blankets of green covering the valley and pockets of colorful flowers sprouting up in every direction. Migratory songbirds such as robins, kingfishers, and chickadees have flocked to the valley as well, ensuring us that we can begin to nestle into the new season.

With the arrival of mother natures seasonal amenities, the community bustles with new prospects of play, like kids in a playground. Among many popular activities in this area that are geared to please the outdoor enthusiasts, new artificial rock climbing features are being built and set up in various locations around town.

This process of funding these climbing structures throughout town is called the Bozeman Boulder Initiative, which started informally in 2005. There have been a lot of people involved in bringing this project to life. Local mountain climber, Conrad Anker, along with David Cook gave this initiative its first breath. From that point, the duo brought in fabricator, Tony Yaniro, who designed and built the first boulder. Gallatin Valley Land Trust partnered with BBI and plunged ahead with funding the project through private and commercial donations, grants, fundraisers, and countless community volunteers. In the summer of 2008, BBI announced the first boulder’s resting place would be at Langohr Park, which compliments Bozeman’s ‘Main Street to the Mountains Trail System’ nicely.

The popularity of this first boulder encouraged BBI and community members to pursue the funding for a second boulder. By the Spring of 2008, enough money had been raised to begin the second boulder, which now rests at the Bozeman Pond. In order to build boulders two and three, BBI collaborated with Stronghold Fabrication, a custom metal work shop, located on North 19th. The owners of Stronghold, Whit Magro, Pat Wolfe, and Ross Lynn are also mountain climbers. Involvement with BBI on this project was an opportunity for Stronghold to utilize their skills as climbers and builders, and the offer was gladly received. The owners have a background that collectively combines blacksmithing, welding, and farming.  However, the passion that they all shared for climbing is what initially brought them all together.

With Stronghold Fabrications open for business in 2008, the timing of the BBI and its need for help worked out nicely for the guys. Stronghold was initially approached by BBI advocate, Conrad Anker, who knew the owners from their climbing backgrounds. Stronghold designs and builds architectural projects, such as stairs, bars, furniture, lighting, and artistic sculptures but were happy to add boulders to their repertoire.

Each boulder has different characteristics and varies in formation, however each caters to climbers of all ages and climbing abilities. With an architect to lay out the initial design, Stronghold begins the process of construction. After the site is decided upon, a concrete pad is poured and allowed to set. The actual frame is built at Stronghold’s workshop, on North 19th. The entire frame takes about 1 month to build. The boulder is first constructed out of rebar, the iron shaped and molded into the desired positions. After the rebar is in place, stucco lathe (a beefy chicken wire) is applied to the surface of the entire structure. At this point, the frame is transported to the designated site. With the shell of the structure in place, the next step is to apply an eggshell of concrete on top of the lathe.  About 3 inches of concrete is applied and textured by hand trowels. The concrete takes about a month to cure, or harden, and is then ready for bouldering.

Stronghold is working on boulder number 3 presently, which has been completely funded by the ongoing efforts of the community. Once finished, the frame is headed to East Gallatin Recreation Area, where the final curing stage will take place. Over 100,000 dollars has been raised so far to pay for all of the boulders, with 30,000 dollars of that given by Park Improvement Grants. Currently, funds are being raised for the next boulder, whose designated spot will be Rose Park, due in the Spring of 2011.
Stronghold finds the job satisfying, being able to utilize their skills as well as the gratification of being involved in the community. “We get to spread access to kids that otherwise may not have the opportunity to climb,” says Magro. The expansion of these parks with the inclusion of climbing features is a wonderful opportunity for children and adults. The boulders are maintenance free, accessible to the public, and it spreads knowledge of climbing to local youth. The team at Stronghold would ideally like to continue making boulders and expanding the Bozeman Boulder Initiative into surrounding areas, such as Missoula, Butte, and Billings.

For questions about how you can support the BBI, contact David Cook at 406-586-5644.