Ottawa

Climbing gym forced to close for island decontamination

A rock climbing gym on Victoria Island will close its doors at the end of December as the National Capital Commission (NCC) gets ready to decontaminate the soil it sits on.

NCC says it's trying to find other options for Vertical Reality

The Vertical Reality rock climbing gym on Victoria Island is closing at the end of December as the National Capital Commission readies to close the island to the public for decontamination work. (Stu Mills/CBC)

A rock climbing gym on Victoria Island will close its doors at the end of December as the National Capital Commission (NCC) gets ready to decontaminate the soil it sits on.

Vertical Reality opened on the west end of the island in 1993 by Peter Slivka. Since 2011, it's been operated by his daughter.

The NCC has been gradually closing off the 5.6-hectare island — which is an important Indigenous site — to prepare for a lengthy two-phase decontamination project.

It will be completely closed to the public on Dec. 31 and major remediation work is expected to start in the spring, NCC spokesperson Cédric Pelletier wrote in an emailed statement.

Soil, groundwater, sediment and surface water around the island have been contaminated by industrial, commercial and residential uses dating back to the 1800s, according to the NCC's website, and "immediate remediation work" is needed to protect human health and the environment.

The project will take seven years and cost an estimated $13 million. 

Victoria Island will be closed by the end of this year after soil samples found elevated levels of contamination, according to the NCC. (National Capital Commission)

Decontamination process complex, NCC says

public post on Vertical Reality's Facebook page said the Coyote Rock Gym has offered to honour Vertical Reality memberships, and that anyone who can't go there will be refunded.

The NCC, meanwhile, said the decontamination process is complex and closing the island will allow the work to happen safely. They also said they're trying to find other options for the gym.

"We can assure you that the NCC is continuing to look for potential alternative premises for Vertical Reality so that it can continue operations," Pelletier wrote.

The gym opened on Victoria Island in 1993. (Stu Mills/CBC)

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