BASE jumpers from all over the world gathered in Moab last week to take advantage of the desert’s natural beauty and its unique cliffs, perfect for their sport.
As BASE jumping’s popularity grows around the world, its legality has not. Because the sport is forbidden in all national parks but one in West Virginia, many of this country’s safest natural BASE jumping exits are off-limits to jumpers. This makes Moab, surrounded by tall, overhung cliffs that exist outside national park limits, an ideal location for a gathering like the annual Turkey Boogie, which began in 2001.
As the annual gathering grew, concerns were raised about the environmental impact of so many BASE jumpers camping in the backcountry at one time. The popular opinion among jumpers is that BASE is a leave no trace sport, but that is often easier said than done. When the fundraising aspect was introduced into the boogie on 2013, local BASE jumper Matt Lajeunesse made it a priority to support Moab’s environment, and began working with both Grand County Search and Rescue (SAR) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to make this event one that benefits everyone.
This year, the fundraiser portion of the gathering was held on Wednesday, Nov. 22 at Gravel Pit Lanes. Tickets were sold for a raffle and BASE jumping gear manufacturers and local businesses donated prizes to be given away. BLM representative Jennifer Jones attended the fundraiser as well, delivering a message on Leave No Trace guidelines, and distributing 1,000 “wag bags” for disposing of human waste.
Grand County Sheriff Steve White, under whose auspices the SAR team fall, said the funding his department gets from the Turkey Boogie goes along way toward assisting them with their needs.
“This is great because we have the busiest [SAR] team in the state and we also like to help this BASE jumping group out when we can,” White said. “The money we get from them each year helps our local team for equipment, training and other purposes, so it’s really great all the way around.”
At the end of the week, only one injury, a broken ankle, was reported, and Lajeunesse reports the total funds raised will be over $20,000. Lajeunesse explained that, in addition to the annual donation to SAR, the money would be distributed between the Natioanl Park Service, BLM, and local first responders. He will be working directly with BLM to build bathroom facilities and a first responder station at Mineral Bottom, one of the most popular, yet most remote, BASE jumping areas.