This is not a fundraiser, simply raise your voice!

Help keep this $100,000 community asset built by champion climber Kai Lightner from disappearing!

A Champion Emerges

Kai lightner

Kai Lightner, a world-renowned rock climber, spent most of his school breaks with his family in metro Atlanta and College Park, GA. At six years-old, Kai was caught scaling a 50-foot flagpole at his mother’s job; this incident became the catalyst that led him to the sport of rock-climbing. He fostered his passion for climbing early, and by ten years old, he was already a national champion. His talent soared, racking up an impressive 10 Youth National Championship titles, 2 adult National Championship titles, and 5 Youth World Championship medals - becoming the first Youth American Lead World Champion since 1995 at just 14! Today, Kai is not just a professional climber sponsored by giants like Adidas and Clif Bar, but also a champion for inclusivity in the sport. But one of Kai's biggest accomplishments, building a climbing wall in College Park to introduce more minority kids to the sport, is now threatened.

Building a Dream

In 2020, at just 21 years old, Kai envisioned a dream for the College Park community. He imagined a place where kids, regardless of their background, could experience the thrill and challenge of rock climbing – for free. Fueled by this vision, Kai poured his heart and soul into raising a staggering $100,000 to make this dream a reality. This incredible feat, along with collaboration with city officials, led to the birth of the state-of-the-art climbing wall at the Tracey Wyatt Recreational Center in College Park, which became open to the public towards the end of 2021. So why do they want to get rid of it now? So why do they want to get rid of it now?

Success in Action

The climbing wall became an instant hit! Thousands of children and adults relied on this community resource through the pandemic. Throughout the year this FREE rock climbing wall gave kids the joy and empowerment of scaling to new heights. Climbing is more than just a physical activity; the sport fosters problem-solving skills, builds self-esteem, teaches kids how to learn from previous failures, and invokes a sense of accomplishment. So why get rid of it?

Success in numbers

January 2021
wall Opened

15,000+ visits
in first 3 years

$0 spent
by community

Why is the Wall at Risk?

The idea to remove the rock climbing wall is baffling. Tracey Wyatt Recreational Center has become a vibrant hub for the community, particularly for young people. College Park Ward 2 Councilwoman Tracie Arnold and her colleagues attempted to dismantle the wall without any community input. Additionally, they have not made it clear why such an amazing community asset hangs in peril. These are the issues we've discovered:New Heights for Staff: The climbing wall at the Tracey Wyatt Recreational Center is a truly unique resource in College Park. However, some discussions have centered around the current staffing model needing adjustments to fully support a specialized facility like the climbing wall. This could involve ensuring staff have the necessary training or exploring alternative staffing options to optimize the climbing wall's operation.

Maintenance Concerns: Maintaining a climbing wall requires expertise. Kai has already secured funding specifically for ongoing maintenance, ensuring the wall's continued safety and functionality.

Space Concerns: The climbing wall's location was previously a lobby with a few benches and a tv. It was a passive space under utilized for its potential. The climbing wall, on the other hand, has become an active space, filled with the energy and excitement of young people conquering new heights. Surely there can be creative solutions to accommodate both the wall and some form of communal space, perhaps even integrated into the wall itself.

Why We Need to Save the Climbing Wall?

The news that the College Park climbing wall might be removed is a blow to the community, especially considering the incredible impact it's having on young people. Here's why this wall is more than just bricks and mortar:A Path to Personal Growth: Kai Lightner, the visionary behind the wall, describes climbing as a way to achieve "complete control of mind, body, and spirit." This translates into a sense of peace and focus that spills over into other aspects of life. Isn't that something we all want for our children?Breaking Down Barriers: Climbing has traditionally been seen as a sport for a privileged few. Kai, himself a young Black climber, never saw himself reflected in the sport. The College Park wall is changing that narrative, offering opportunities for underserved communities, particularly Black and brown youth, to discover a new passion and explore their potential.Empowerment Through Exploration: Many kids grow up in environments devoid of access to non-traditional activities. The climbing wall opens a gateway to adventure, exploration, and a connection with nature. This transformative experience fosters a sense of belonging and ownership of these spaces.Building a Stronger Community: The wall isn't just about individual growth; it strengthens the community as a whole. Mayor Bianca Motley Broom highlights the wall's role in building connections and fostering a sense of inclusivity. It's a place where kids from diverse backgrounds can come together, share experiences, and build positive relationships.A Beacon of Hope: Climbing programs have been shown to have a profound impact on troubled youth. The focus, discipline, and sense of accomplishment cultivated by the sport empower kids to overcome challenges, leading to a more hopeful and positive outlook on life.A Sustainable Legacy: The College Park climbing wall wasn't built on a whim. Kai, along with sponsors and community leaders, secured funding specifically for ongoing maintenance. This commitment ensures the wall's long-term viability, providing a lasting resource for generations to come.More Than Just a Wall: The decision to remove the climbing wall feels short-sighted. It's more than just a structure; it's a symbol of opportunity, empowerment, and hope. Let's work together to ensure this beacon continues to shine brightly for the College Park community.

An OPEN Letter to mayor & council

Dear Mayor Motley Broom and Council Members,I hope this message finds you well. I am writing to you as a concerned resident of College Park regarding the recent council meeting held on May 6, 2024, and the subsequent discussions and decisions related to the rock climbing wall at the Tracy Wyatt Recreation Center.During the May 6 council meeting, Councilwoman Arnold withdrew the original rock wall motion and made a motion to authorize the City Manager to perform a full investigation on the inconsistencies and a budget of $60,000 to make the best administrative actions on the determination of the relocation of the rock wall. The motion was seconded by Councilman Carn and carried by those present. Councilwoman McKenzie left the meeting right before the vote due to health concerns. Before leaving, she expressed confusion about the $60,000 allocated to the City Manager and what it would be used for. She mentioned that it was her understanding that the funds were simply for investigating inconsistencies in the rock wall. Councilwoman McKenzie, I would like to directly ask if this resulting action is what you understood it to be before you left and if you feel okay with the decision?Additionally, Councilman Carn stated his expectation that the findings of the investigation would be brought back to the council. This signals his desire for it to return to a meeting as an agenda item for more discussion before any actions are carried out. I advocate that the investigation and determination be presented as 2 separate agenda items. Councilman Carn, is it your intention that this process remain an open and transparent so that the community feels apart of the decisions made by council?Councilwoman Arnold, following up on my previous emails regarding a meeting request to discuss the recent decisions concerning the rock climbing wall. Your insight as a council member are invaluable, and I believe your input would greatly benefit our discussion. Could you please confirm your availability for a meeting or suggest alternative times?Councilman Gay, I appreciate your position in maintaining a community resource like the rock climbing wall.On May 14, I requested and attended a follow-up meeting with Dr. Adediran, Grace McPhillips Lunsford, and Mose James IV to gain a better understanding of the pending investigation. Dr. Adediran was gracious to oblige a meeting. I appreciated his sentiment of “What’s best for the residents is what I do”.Dr. Adediran shared that his duties as it relates to this motion are speared by “the governing body and the direction of the city attorney”.  Several of Dr. Adediran’s questions seemed to hinge on Winston Denmark's approval. However, it's important to remind the council that the motion passed on May 6 absolved the governing body from making the decision and handed it to the City Manager.
While I understand and appreciate the council's intention to address any potential issues with the rock wall, I am concerned that there may be some misunderstandings regarding the City Manager's directive to make an autonomous decision. Throughout our meeting with Dr. Adediran, he frequently deferred decisions, stating that he needed to consult with the College Park city attorney before providing answers. This approach, coupled with his repeated statements that "this is what the governing body wants" and that our concerns should be directed at the governing body, erodes our trust that the City Manager understands his role in this process. It is crucial that there is clarity on what the action item entails and the extent of the City Manager's authority in this matter. Specifically pertaining to “administrative actions” and “determination”. I advocated that this autonomous directive allows for a decision to decide yes or no as it pertains to the relocation.
Additionally, I expressed concerns about the investigation itself,  inclusion of rock wall subject matter experts and community involvement in the investigation. Now I have concerns of potential conflicts of interest. It has come to my attention that Donald Dejarnette, the special investigator assigned to this case, serves as the City Administrator and Police Chief for the city of Lithonia. This is particularly troubling as Winston Denmark, the city attorney for College Park, also serves as the city attorney for Lithonia. This overlap raises questions about the impartiality of the investigation.Given the importance of this issue and its impact on our community, I would like to request the following:1. Clarification from the Council: I kindly ask the Mayor and Council to provide a clear understanding of what the action item means regarding the City Manager's directive. This will help ensure that all parties involved are on the same page and that the City Manager fully comprehends his role and responsibilities in making an autonomous decision.2. Addressing Potential Conflicts of Interest: I urge the Council to consider the potential conflicts of interest in this investigation and take appropriate steps to ensure that the process remains unbiased
and transparent.
3. Include Rock Wall Subject Matter Experts: Ensure that rock wall subject matter experts are included in this investigation to provide specialized knowledge and insights.4. Community Involvement: As a voice in the community, I request the opportunity to partner with the special investigator, Donald Dejarnette, as well as Councilwoman Tracie Arnold, to discuss the concerns and perspectives of the residents. It is vital that the community's voice is heard and considered in this investigation and determination.To provide additional context, I would like to share some of my personal experiences and concerns. As a mother and a resident, the rock climbing wall at the Tracy Wyatt Recreation Center holds value for my family and our community. My son and his friends are engaged in climbing activities, and the wall has been a one of kind experience in their lives. The initial investment in the rock wall, totaling almost $100,000, was supported by donations coordinated by Kai Lightner, which included agreements for ongoing maintenance and programming. Moving or removing the wall now would not only disregard this investment but also jeopardize the programming for our children without proper research into alternative locations.The Tracy Wyatt Recreation Center was carefully chosen for its suitability, accessibility, and space, making it the ideal location for such a non-traditional sport as rock climbing. I am deeply troubled by the prospect of taking away this community resource without a valid reason. The focus has shifted to innuendos that gaslight safety concerns without actual discussion with rock wall safety experts. The focus has shifted to challenging utilization metrics to support a decision for removal that was decided and delegated before any questions were asked based on initial emails from Councilwoman Arnold in April.Instead of spending $60,000 on “investigating” and “determining” relocating the wall, these funds could be used to strengthen the program in several impactful ways:Expanded Programming: Use the funds to develop new climbing programs, such as after-school clubs, weekend climbing camps, and special events that can attract more participants and increase engagement.Equipment Enhancements: Invest in additional autobelays, harnesses, and safety mats, to continue the highest safety standards.Staff Refresher Training: Certification is not a requirement of utilizing the autobelay rock climbing system. Our partnership with Stone Summit would allow for interval refresher training for staff to stay up to date on their skills and ensure they offer the best possible experience for participants.The rock climbing wall at the Tracy Wyatt Recreation Center is a significant asset to our community, providing valuable opportunities for our youth. It is essential that any decisions made regarding its future are based on thorough, impartial, and transparent investigations.My prayer for College Park is “One College Park”, a united College Park. I pray that personal agendas do not cloud the tough decisions that I know you all have been voted in to make every day. It's essential to maintain transparency and integrity in our decision-making processes. We must prioritize doing the right thing based on facts, rather than bargain votes for personal gain. Our community deserves leaders who act in the best interests of all constituents - “One College Park”. I trust that you will continue to uphold these principles.Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to your response and the opportunity to discuss these concerns further.Sincerely,Dr. Shekita James
Resident of College Park

Share your story

We encourage everyone to share their story!Tell the Councilwoman Tracie Arnold and College Park City Council why opportunities like this are important to a thriving community. Whether you're a seasoned climber or a parent watching your child discover a new passion, your voice matters.Together, let's create a powerful narrative that showcases the importance of keeping the College Park climbing wall open for generations to come.Click the button below to share your story!

send an email

Email Councilwoman Tracie Arnold and tell her why this resource is vital to the community. It was her decision to dismantle the wall. Every voice counts! Let's show her the climbing wall is a win for College Park.Councilwoman Tracie Arnold, Ward 2
[email protected]

Mose James V
Before the climbing wall, the highest I went was a tree. Climbing's way more awesome than I thought. It's about figuring stuff out and pushing myself. Thanks Kai!

Andrea Shannon
I'm always on the hunt for activities that keep my daughter engaged. The climbing wall has been a lifesaver! It's more than exercise, it's like a giant puzzle she gets to solve with her own body.

Anna Benbrook
Gotta say, College Park wall is a hidden gem! Been climbing outdoors for years, but this place is perfect for those rainy days or training new routes. The variety keeps things interesting. Definitely coming back next time I'm in town!

Join the team

The College Park climbing wall isn't just about reaching the top – it's about reaching for a brighter future for our youth. We need your support to save this incredible community resource.Sign up below to receive updates on our efforts, upcoming events, and ways you can make a difference.

Black People Don't Climb No Rock Wall!

Yes, we do! We can climb to amazing heights, on or off the wall.Now, we want to hear from you. Share a video or photo of yourself climbing, or respond to that statement. Your response can show how people of color rise to great heights. If you have photos or videos of yourself rock climbing, include them too. Let’s show everyone that people of color are amazing, and that the climbing world—and every other field—should be diverse.Go ahead and create your video right now. Let’s climb to new heights together!

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