Slugg’s Bluff becomes Michigan’s first climber-owned crag

Published: Oct. 5, 2022 at 5:24 PM EDT
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MARQUETTE COUNTY, Mich. (WLUC) - A popular climbing destination in Marquette County is now the first climber-owned crag in Michigan.

Slugg’s Bluff has been a popular climbing destination in palmer since the 1970s.

Leo ‘Slugg’ Arbelius owned the property with his wife, Alice, and it has been in the family for decades.

“It was just really a family gathering spot,” Slugg’s Daughter Sandy Sarasin said. “My Dad had a huge garden, and he ran his own gas station, and he would come up here every single day with his dog Charlie Brown and watch the birds and check his garden. Lots of good history with our family.”

After Slugg’s death in 1990, his children inherited the 10 acres of land that is home to an 80-foot-tall quartzite cliff line.

The Upper Peninsula Climbers Coalition (UPCC) approached the family this year, to buy the property. The group hoped to create a climber-owned public use. Instead of selling, the family had a different plan.

“To our complete amazement they did want to give us the property, but they didn’t want any money for it. They just donated it,” UPCC President John Miller said.

Miller says now that the group owns the land it will remain open for years to come.

“It is hard to put into words how grateful we are for the family,” Miller said. “We have erected some signage at the start of the trail thanking them for their generosity. The plan is to keep it open for absolutely everyone forever.”

Slugg’s Oldest Daughter Judy Wiig says keeping the property open to all is preserving her father’s legacy.

“It was always open; you could always come,” Wiig said. “To see that this is going to carry on forever and it is never going to one person’s domain is wonderful. It is exactly what my father would have wanted.”

Miller says anyone who is interested in the upkeep of the property or wants to become more involved in the climbing community should join the Upper Peninsula Climbers Coalition.