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Olympic medalist lends support to Little Cottonwood Canyon traffic plan

Posted at 11:18 AM, Aug 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-23 17:50:45-04

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah — An Olympic medal winner from Utah is lending his support to save the iconic boulders of Little Cottonwood Canyon.

WATCH: Final proposals to ease Little Cottonwood Canyon congestion revealed

Murray native Nathaniel Coleman recently won silver in sport climbing at the Tokyo games, the first time the sport has appeared in the Olympics.

Tokyo Olympics Sport Climbing Nath
Nathaniel Coleman, of the United States, celebrates after winning the men's sport climbing silver medal at the 2020 Summer Olympics

The 24-year-old learned the tricks of his trade on the boulders in Little Cottonwood Canyon, where the Utah Department of Transportation has two proposals to lessen traffic.

One proposal is a gondola system costing half-a-billion dollars and running eight miles through the canyon. Coleman fears that construction in particular will forever impact this world renowned climbing area.

Coleman is no engineer and realizes there’s no easy or cheap solution, but he also knows how critically important the space is for climbers in Utah and around the world.

“You see USA Climbing moving their headquarters here, competition climbing is becoming, it’s building a culture in Salt Lake City, so if we want to continue to invest in that as a city this is a big statement on whether or not climbing is valued,” said Coleman.

WATCH: Public hearing held over plans for Little Cottonwood Canyon

Coleman gave demonstration of his climbing skills during Monday’s press event, giving people an idea of how amazing these boulders are. He says from what he’s seen so far, he believes restriping the road and having a dedicated lane for electric buses, along with incentives for carpooling, would be the best solution for Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Coleman Climb

Considering how deep the political divide is in the country right, saving the boulders in Little Cottonwood Canyon is something some members of both parties can agree on.

Former Salt Lake mayor Ted Wilson, a Democrat who established climbing routes decades ago, along with conservative state Sen. Jake Anderegg, both agree something needs to be done to better protect the canyon.

Anderegg says he will be looking at what can be done within the state legislature to make it happen.

Click here to read the full Environmental Impact Statement, along with more information and resources about the proposals.