My name is Jay Smith and I am a resident of the City of Ouray, but have been climbing here since 1985. I bought Gary Wild's home on 4th Street in 1996. You may recall that it was Gary Wild who was the inspiration and the visionary to help start the Ouray Ice Park in the beginning and that it met a lot of opposition from the town. It is now obvious that that OIP is a key economic element for all of Ouray County. For me, it is one of the reasons I purchased a home here, in addition to my friends, the community, the San Juan mountains and the peace and quiet of the region, which is getting harder and harder to find, anywhere.
I am writing you regarding the construction of a Via Ferrata within the OIP to which I'm opposed. It is not that I specifically opposed VF's, which I am not. I only oppose one being built in within the Park. As a climber and resident I feel that the Park must be reserved for climbing as originally intended. Most every climber that has visited the Park in recent years knows how overcrowded it has become, creating dangerous situations at times, due to novice climbers being unaware of the potential of harming climbers below. Any cliffs that remain should be allocated for further climbing development, spreading the masses out. The area that has been proposed for the VF does still hold potential for "Dry Tooling,” that is climbing with ice axes and crampons that does not necessarily need ice. This is one of the new draws of the Park and is at the upper end of technical climbing. Having cables, rungs and a variety of fixtures across the faces will destroy any future climbs in this area.
As for VF's, I have designed, managed and set up ropes courses for adventure racing four times including the Eco Challenge and Primal Quest Adventure Races, two of the greatest adventure races ever. This included the world's longest ropes course "2006 Utah Primal Quest" and constructed temporary VF's for these. Because of the feedback I received from the racers, I know how successful a well designed VF would be received. There is no doubt that, if done properly in the correct setting, it could become a huge draw to adventurers throughout the U.S. and beyond. They have been highly successful in Europe where there are hundreds of them spread throughout. All of these are free and accessible to the public. Some historic, others quite technical and some designed for beginners. Ouray and the San Juan mountains certainly does hold potential for VF's and there are numerous locations where they could be built, given permission from the land owners or land managers of public lands. However, the OIP is a unique and very finite resource which should be reserved for climbing and other uses that do not disturb its natural beauty nor interfere with its climbing potential.