New Lens was mentioned in the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer

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Rock, Rope, and Risk

By Ryan Rodgers

Sterling Roussel is stuck on a ledge. The teenager from St. Paul had moved quickly up the first half of the rock climb at Interstate State Park in Taylors Falls, but now he is frozen with fear, clutching the cliff face as if somebody is trying to pull him off by the ankles.

It's a sunny Saturday in May, and throngs of park visitors pass the aptly named Tourist Rocks. From the paved trail beneath the cliff, you can see the St. Croix River, shimmering and rain-swollen. Many of the walkers on the trail stop to watch the climbers. The rock is dark and fractured, part of a basalt protrusion that extends across the river into Wisconsin. More than a billion years ago, the now ancient stone bubbled up as lava from a great crack in the earth. Go a short way up- or downriver, and the river valley walls become limestone or sandstone, but this small area is home to vertiginous, durable rock well suited for climbing.

"I can't go higher," Roussel calls down. He is one of a dozen St. Paul teens here with New Lens Urban Mentoring Society, a nonprofit organization that pairs young African-American men with community mentors. The teens and two mentors are spending the day rock climbing with several instructors from the Voyageur Outward Bound School, another St. Paul nonprofit that fosters personal growth in the outdoors. Read more