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Rock Climbing Area at Pere Marquette Opens

Pere Marquette State Park in Grafton is now host to a new rock climbing area, a feature expected to attract a steady number of hobbyists from the St. Louis area, as well as across the country.

Rock Climbing at Pere Marquette State Park

The limestone wall officially opened Monday, Nov. 21, with a ribbon cutting ceremony that dozens who were involved in the project, fueled largely by volunteer efforts, attended.

"It's the culmination of hard work, grant-seeking and partnerships with the Pere Marquette State Park Foundation and the Illinois Climbing Association, said the park's superintendent," Chris Hespin. He added that the project represents two years of commitment from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

He said "there's no shortage of natural resources at the park, but funds, as well as staff, remain hard to come by. It's hard work and volunteerism that fueled the completion of the spot, expected to be a regional favorite of the rock climbing community."

Under the guidance of Hespin, the Illinois Climbers Association installed stairs, trails and safety anchors.

"We can't express how cool it is for the climbing community, in particular for the climbers from St. Louis," said Eric Ulner, the project's manager and volunteer. "There is a large batch of climbers from the area."

"We always like to show our park off," said Anita Rose, of the Friends of Pere Marquette organization. "We think we've got the best park in the state of Illinois."

Todd Rettig, of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Office of Land Management, said the project is an example of how exemplary public amenities can be created when government funding is low.

"We have partners on all sides of this project that helped," he said.Rettig detailed the amount of unseen work that goes into such as a project, such as expertise to develop safe but exciting routes, as well as clearing government-level approvals. The Illinois Climbing Association's website says that more than 50 routes are expected to be developed at the location, just off Route 100, less than one mile southwest of the Brussels Ferry.

David Hug, of the Illinois Climbers Association, said that for him and many other area volunteers, the project was a labor of love."As climbers, we love what we do and we're willing to go to great lengths to do it," noting that public spaces where rock climbing is allowed are quickly disappearing.

"Climbing access is threatened everywhere. That's why people like myself and many others out here, we're aware of this, and we banded together." Brett Stawar, CEO of the Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that Pere Marquette State Park combines all of the elements tourism aims to capture. "All of it, with a tourism lens, can be translated into new dollars to support our local communities."