The local BASE jumping community is hosting a three-day event, in which jumpers will clean up heavily used jumping areas, attend safety courses, and communicate with Bureau of Land Management, Grand County Search and Rescue, and National Park Service officials.
“This is the weekend to slow everyone down, and to make sure we’re covering the things we need to,” said Matt Lajeunesse, an organizer of the event and representative of the Moab BASE community. “We do a lot of base jumping back there, so it’s a high impact area for us and we’re going to clean up the areas in which we are active.”
The event will be centered mainly in the Kane Creek and Mineral Bottom areas.
Despite the infrequency of large-scale BASE events in Moab, Lajeunesse believes it to be important to the region.
“Not every town is surrounded by cliffs like Moab. That we are able to live somewhere where we can be at a jump in fifteen minutes is unique,” Lajeunesse explained. “We want to appreciate the fact that we are surrounded by these sandstone cliffs and do the little things that are the most important.”
Several members of the BASE community are donating their time and skills to teach others during the weekend event, including Andy Lewis and Nolan Smythe, who will be teaching a ropes course.
“If you do anything [outdoors] in Moab it helps to have some rope skills and awareness,” said Lajeunesse. “Sometimes it’s our way to access cliffs, and it can help with safety and rescues, which don’t happen often, but if we can get a rope to someone who is stranded, and they know what to do with that rope, it makes things incredibly easier.”
The BASE community has made efforts to maintain open lines of communication with local first responders, SAR, BLM, and NPS officials, and has made donations to each organization through a fundraiser at their annual Turkey Boogie.
“We’ve worked with search and rescue for the past six years, so we want to make sure those lines of communications are open and we meet face to face when lives aren’t on the line ... and give them some thanks,” said Lajeunesse about why they’ve reached out to the organizations for this Earth Day event. “We’re also building bathrooms out at Mineral Bottom with the BLM.”
“During the past three years Matt Lajeunesse and the BASE community have worked closely with the BLM’s Moab Field Office, being proactive in addressing access issues and embracing the public lands,” said BLM assistant field manager Jennifer Jones. “The BLM appreciates their efforts to give back to public lands, the strong working relationship, and open dialogue we share with the BASE community.”
“This is the first time we’ve done anything with the National Park Service,” said Lajeunesse. “BASE jumping is actually illegal in national parks.”
Jumping has a contentious history within National Parks. After a brief period of legal and permitted jumping in Yosemite National Park, jumping was declared illegal within all parks.
“I am trying to open dialogue,” Lajeunesse continued. “It was a small donation, and I know we’re nowhere near any changes, but what got me into base jumping wasn’t parachutes, it was the outdoors. National parks mean the world to me. I consider myself an outdoors person before a jumper, so I hope we can continue to support them.”
The event will wrap up on Sunday with a jumping contest.
“Sunday is Earth Day. BASE is an acronym (building, antenna, span, and earth) and the E stands for earth,” explained Lajeunesse. “So we’re focusing on accuracy. It doesn’t take much skill to use gravity, to just jump off a cliff, so we’re putting down a tiny little bullseye to give people a chance to assess their skills.”
BASE national champion in accuracy Will Kitto will be offering tips and coaching to those participating. According to Lajeunesse, “He’s going to give them a chance to learn something new and make some improvements to make tricky landings safer.”