Access PanAm Gets Off to a Good Start
Access PanAM / Acceso PanAm, the first ever hemisphere-wide access group, met for the first time at the Squamish Mountain Festival this past August. Led by Access Fund founder Armando Menocal, climbing activists from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Cuba, Mexico, and United States (including Access Fund Policy Director) met to discuss the problems faced by climbers in the Western Hemisphere.
The initial sessions revealed the breath of access problems across Latin America—from gang members with machine guns blocking climbers in Brazilian favelas, to Cubans being arrested at their crags even though climbing is permitted by foreigners, and even Mexican villagers accusing local climbers of stealing a mythical golden dog perched on their cliffs. The issues vary, but they have a common core: No one solution fits.
It will be up to local climbers to solve local problems, but the basic mission of Access PanAm will be to support the locals in these initiatives. Access PanAm’s goal will be to create and sustain local, regional, and country-wide access organizations that keep climbing areas open and protect the mountain environment. La unión hace la fuerza – In unity there is power.
The new access organization made several achievements at the August meeting, including the appointment of a part time Executive Director, Kika Bradford, founder of Brazil’s first access organization and selection of a steering committee made up of activists from Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Honduras, Mexico, Peru, USA, and Spain.
Access PanAm also launched its first campaign, to save one of Latin America’s biggest and most endangered climbing areas, Valle Cochamó. Situated in Chile's Patagonia, this alpine wilderness has some of the longest ice-free granite routes on earth. Cochamó is legally unprotected, and local utility companies have applied to dam the valley for its water and hydro-power. The effort to save this spectacular area includes Daniel Seeliger, one of Access PanAm’s initial organizers and a resident of Valle Cochamó.
The founding meeting of Access PanAm was funded by the Petzl Foundation, helped by air tickets from Mountain Gear (U.S.A.), and hosted by the Squamish Mountain Festival.
For more information, visit accesspanam.com.
Alaskan Small Businesses Fight Denali Fee Increase for Climbers
Last month, local guide services and air taxis joined forces to lobby Alaska senators against a possible fee increase (from $200 to $500) that would unfairly targets climbers attempting Mt. McKinley and Mt. Foraker. The increase would make climbing in the national park impossible for some climbers and significantly damage local businesses that provide guiding and other services to visiting climbers. This effort was supported by the Access Fund, American Mountain Guides Association, and American Alpine Club.
Read the letter
Southeastern Climbers Coalition Closes on Steele
On Friday, September 4th, 2009, the Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC) closed on a 25 acre tract and cliffline in Steele, Alabama for a purchase price of $55,000. The crag has been off limits to climbers for over twenty years after a dispute with a private landowner. The 25 acre tract is now climber owned and managed and will be preserved for future generations to enjoy. The SCC negotiated a purchase for a portion (1,400 linear feet) of the mile-long crag along with adequate parking and trail access.
In collaboration with the SCC, the new Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign www.accessfund.org/aflcc provided a $20,000 bridge loan to allow the project to close on time. To date the SCC has raised $40,000 of the $55,000 price tag, including generous support from the climbing community, Chaco, Rock/Creek, countless others, and an early gift of $5,000 from the Access Fund Climbing Preservation Grants Program.
The crag at Steele will offer sport and traditional climbing as well as some bouldering and is 45 minutes from nearby Birmingham and two hours from Atlanta, Georgia. The 25 acre tract includes approximately 40 climbing routes, both sport and traditional along with a hillside strewn with sandstone boulders. The tract also has a house trailer, metal shed, parking and good road access from the main highway (Chandler Mountain Road). The area is expected to be popular due to its close proximity to metropolitan areas and quality of sandstone and routes. The goal of the SCC is to open up the entire clifflline, and the Access Fund bridge loan gives the SCC greater capacity to negotiate with other landowners along the cliffline.
For more information, visit www.seclimbers.org.
Access Fund Announces Multimillion Campaign to Save Endangered Climbing Areas
The Access Fund announces the launch of a new campaign to save endangered climbing areas—the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign (AFLCC). The AFLCC is a multimillion-dollar revolving loan program designed to provide local climbing organizations and other agencies with the funds and expertise needed to act quickly to save threatened climbing areas.
“Over the years, we’ve seen more private climbing areas changing hands, some of them lost to cash-ready developers. Local climbers don’t always have the money or the resources to save these climbing areas. This program was designed to help them,” says Brady Robinson, Access Fund Executive Director.
While a portion of the Access Fund’s focus and revenues has always been allocated to acquisition and protection of threatened land (see acquisitions history), the new AFLCC program will expand on this capability, arming local climbing organizations to take on the ever-growing threats of development and protect our climbing resources from landowners who are not climber friendly.
The AFLCC will provide local climbing organizations with short-term loans and expertise on direct acquisitions, leases, easements, and other tactics. This assistance and bridge financing for time-sensitive projects will give local climbers the opportunity to raise money over a longer period of time and/or finalize take-out strategies. In addition to loans, the AFLCC may also offer grants for direct conservation efforts, including acquisitions and other projects that protect climbing areas on private land.
The AFLCC already has two successful pilot projects underway. The first is a $15,000 bridge loan to secure an option agreement for the acquisition of the Lower Index Town Wall in Washington. “The Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign stepped in at just the right time to loan WCC the funds necessary to secure this option,” says WCC Secretary Matt Perkins. The second is a $20,000 bridge loan to Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC) to help facilitate the purchase of a 29-acre cliff line in Steele, Alabama. Learn more about these projects.
The Access Fund has been fundraising for the campaign for 14 months and is over halfway toward its goal of $2.5 million. To date, the AFLCC has been supported by a number of generous individuals and companies within the outdoor industry. Bill Supple, President and CEO of Mammut Sports Group commented, “from an outdoor industry prospective, as the bar gets higher and more complicated in maintaining access to multi-recreational areas, we need to step up and support initiatives like the AFLCC for both future generations of users and for the long term sustainability of our businesses.”
Because the AFLCC is a revolving fund, donors’ contributions are recycled over time, allowing the Access Fund to protect more and more valued climbing areas for future generations. For more information about the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign, visit www.accessfund.org/AFLCC.
We want to give you the opportunity to be a part of this landmark campaign, which has the potential to change the face of climbing access in America! Please consider giving an addition donation today or joining the Access Fund if you aren't already a member.
Access Fund makes the outdoor community’s case for modernizing hardrock mining policy
Access Fund provided testimony for the July 14 legislative hearing on the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2009 on behalf of the Outdoor Alliance, a coalition of six national, member-based organizations devoted to conservation and stewardship of our nation’s public lands and waters through responsible human-powered outdoor recreation. More information on the Outdoor Alliance.
The testimony encourages legislators to focus hardrock mining reform on three fundamental areas: (1) creating a fair royalty system to fund abandoned mine cleanup; (2) environmental protection standards that explicitly recognize the value of our public lands beyond what can be extracted by mining interests; and (3) protecting federal lands that have exceptional non-extractive value, such as National Conservation Areas, Wild and Scenic River corridors and Inventoried Roadless Areas from future mining activity.
Read the testimony
Big Rock Acquired for Conservation
Late last month the Spokane area conservation group Dishman Hills Natural Area Association (DHNAA) acquired the iconic Big Rock property located at the south end of the Dishman Hills. The deal involved an even swap of another 80-acres of DHNAA land on the north side of the ridge. Big Rock will be protected for the public as part of a larger, 750-acre natural area. The Spokane Mountaineers are working in collaboration with DHNAA to start road and parking area improvements necessary for climbers and the public to gain access to this area, which features granite rocks rising from the ridgeline.
For more information, visit: http://www.spokanemountaineers.org/content/whos_out_there/one_trip.php?id=32
Madrone Wall County Funds Preserved!
On July 21, the Clackamas County Parks Advisory Board voted unanimously to retain the budgeted $70,000 for phase one of the Madrone Wall park implementation.
With only a little over a week available, the climbing community flooded County staff with appeals to reject a June 2009 County Parks proposal to re-allocate the $70,000 for an unrelated land purchase. The volume of your input and our community’s sustained appeal to the County made a substantial difference in moving the park creation effort forward.
Thank you very much for your input; it appears to have made a difference at this critical juncture!
The Madrone Wall Preservation Committee (MWPC) needs your assistance to open Madrone Wall to the public. Earlier in 2009, Clackamas County allocated 70,000 towards development of a parking area and facilities and the MWPC has over $35,000 available in volunteer labor costs to carry out the project. However, the Madrone Wall project did not receive a matching grant through the Oregon State Parks Local Government Grant Program, which would have provided an additional $100,000. Unfortunately, without matching funds, Clackamas County may decide to re-allocate precious funds. With the current economic situation, public access could be delayed even longer. However, Clackamas County has other potential resources such as the Oregon National Guard to find creative ways to reduce the funding needs and start construction of the access road and parking area in the near future. Please show your support with a letter to the Clackamas County Commissions and County Parks Staff requesting their support in moving forward with timely park creation with the money that has already been budgeted in the current fiscal year. Please submit your e-mail by July 20, 2009 for the upcoming July 21st County Parks Advisory Board meeting. If you are interested in providing our input in person, the meeting will be held at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday 21 July at the Stonecreek Golf Club at 14603 South Stoneridge Drive, Oregon City, Oregon 97045 (www.stonecreekgolfclub.net).
Update: New Access for North Area of McDowells
In May we reported on the recent success of the Arizona Mountaineering Club (AMC) and local Arizona climbers in working with the City of Scottsdale to open the north area of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve to climbing. Part of the climbing management plan requires that climbers use official parking areas and designated trails, which the local climbing community is currently working to establish. The AMC is pleased to report that the new Tom’s Thumb trail is now open and can be accessed from a temporary parking area in the general vicinity of Morrell's Parking Lot, where the permanent parking will eventually be located.
For more information on the Tom’s Thumb Trail and designated access to the other historic climbing crags in the area, visit the Arizona Mountaineering Club's website.
Access Fund Announces Second Round Grant Recipients for 2009
In the second round of the Climbing Preservation Grant Program for 2009, the Access Fund awarded over $12,000 to support local climbing activism and conservation of the climbing environment. Presented three times annually, the Climbing Preservation Grants program provides financial assistance for local climber activism and protection of the climbing environment in the United States. During this second round of grants, the Access Fund is supporting five proposals, representing a wide array of projects from grassroots start-up, to trail work, climber education, and sanitation.
The following grants were awarded this round:
Friends of Indian Creek – Bridger Jack Toilet
A grant was awarded to the Friends of Indian Creek (FOIC) to help fund the construction and installation of a composting toilet at the Bridger Jack Campground. The campground is used primarily by climbers and current bathroom facilities in the area are over capacity. The Bureau of Land Management, FOIC, and other supporters are providing matching funds to complete the installation, and its maintenance will be a joint partnership led by FOIC and supported by the BLM.
Denver Climbers Coalition (DCC) – Organizational Start-Up
A grant was awarded to Denver Climbers Coalition (DCC) for start-up costs associated with obtaining their 501(c)(3) non-profit status, securing general liability insurance to support Adopt a Crag events, and website hosting. The Access Fund is excited to have the DCC as an affiliate and looks forward to their continued contributions to furthering the climbing access mission.
Arizona Mountaineering Club (AMC) – North McDowells Climber Path Signage
A grant was awarded to the Arizona Mountaineering Club to produce approximately 40 climbing access signs to be installed at the North Access Area of McDowell Sonoran Preserve, a 36,000 acre nature preserve in north Scottsdale. The signs will help keep climbers on official access paths to climbing areas. The City of Scottsdale is also creating a new trailhead and is purchasing the posts for each sign.
Wilmington State Parks – Alapocas Run Kiosk
A grant was awarded to Wilmington State Parks for the construction of an educational kiosk at the Alapocas Run Climbing area in Delaware, which features around two dozen sport and top rope routes. The kiosk will provide information to educate climbers about climbing opportunities, access information, and the free permitting process.
Utah Open Lands – Castleton Tower Adopt a Crag
A grant was awarded to Utah Open Lands, who will provide matching funds to conduct ongoing maintenance of the Castle Tower access trail, and construct four tent platforms and fire rings for campsite improvements. The money will also help fund a Castleton Tower web site to communicate current access and camping information to climbers. The trail work and campsite construction will take place as part of an Adopt a Crag event with local volunteer climbers this October.
Access Fund Launches New Advocacy Tool
The Access Fund announced today the launch of a new online grassroots advocacy tool that makes it easier and faster for activists to help influence public policy that affects climbing access.
While “action alerts” are nothing new to Access Fund supporters, the days of drafting their own letters, cutting and pasting drafted letters, and digging around to find the correct decision makers are over.
The Access Fund’s new technology enables supporters to quickly and easily respond to urgent action alerts online by sending a preformatted letter or customizing their own letter, which is then automatically sent to the correct decision makers based on the state where the issue is located and the supporter’s zip code. The tool is powered by a dynamic database of elected officials and media outlets, which assures that it is always up to date.
Individual supporters can increase the impact of a campaign by forwarding the issue to their friends and climbing partners using the software’s “Spread the Word” functionality, empowering activists to help mobilize the climbing community around issues that could impact climbing access. The software allows supporters to track the results of the advocacy campaigns in which they have participated.
“We are extremely excited about this new technology,” says Access Fund Policy Director Jason Keith. “It is critical that policy makers hear our voices before a vote. And this new capability will empower the climbing community to have real influence over public policy decisions, as well as support the work that we are doing in Washington, DC.”
Supporters can stay informed on current action alerts by visiting the Action Center at www.accessfund.org/action, placing the Access Fund RSS feed on their home page, or becoming a fan of the Access Fund’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/accessfund.
Climbing Areas in California State Park Threatened - Take Action Now!
Immediate action is needed to help save climbing in California’s State Parks from drastic budget cuts that threaten closure! This is a live action alert for California. Please go to our Action Center to send a letter to your state representatives and urge them to support a budget that doesn’t deprive your State Park lands and its users!
Protect Access to Ralph Stover State Park, PA - Take Action Now
We need your help to convince PA legislators that they should prioritize access to valuable state public lands. This is a live action alert for Pennsylvania. Please visit our Action Center to send a letter to your representatives and urge them to support a budget that doesn’t deprive your state public lands and its users.
Access Fund Secures MOU with National Park Service
The Access Fund announces today that, after six years of collaborative negotiations, it has finalized and signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the National Park Service (NPS).
The newly signed MOU frames a cooperative relationship between the climbing community and the National Park Service. It outlines the common interests that the parties share—such as conservation and planning—as well as how they will work together to reach common goals.
The greatest value of this MOU will be realized by the Access Fund’s more than 70 affiliated local climbing organizations, which can leverage the agreement to initiate relationships with managers of the national parks in their areas. The agreement will make it easier for climbers to develop mutually beneficial relationships with NPS officials regarding climbing management and stewardship issues. The MOU also will help these organizations express their interests when management planning is undertaken on NPS lands that contain climbing resources.
The Access Fund has been building a case for the MOU since early 2003. An extensive support package was presented to the National Park Service in September 2005, outlining the contributions that the Access Fund and local climbers have made to NPS lands—such as collaborating on conservation events, participating in management planning, granting funds for trail improvements, and installing bear boxes. This package showed NPS officials that climbers are a cooperative and responsible user group.
The Access Fund was also able to show a long history of constructive solution-building between climbers and National Park Service officials, illustrated through successful climbing management in areas like Yosemite National Park in California, Denali National Park & Preserve in Alaska, New River Gorge National River in West Virginia, and Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming, to name a few.
Numerous NPS officials provided endorsements for the Access Fund in support of the MOU, including the previous superintendent of Yosemite National Park, Michael Tollefson. Tollefson endorsed the MOU “based on years of collaboration … that has directly benefitted park operations and the visitor experience, as well as work that less directly, but importantly, supports park management strategic direction. We enjoy a direct line of cooperative and thoughtful conversation with [Access Fund staff], and believe that this connection allows forward-thinking solutions.”
The MOU is available for review and download at www.accessfund.org/mous.
Closed: Draper’s Bluff, Illinois
Owners of the popular Illinois climbing area, Draper's Bluff, published an open letter to the climbing community last month announcing the immediate closure of their land to climbing and other recreational use. Landowners recently discovered that the Illinois state legislature had amended state law and narrowed the liability protections afforded landowners who allow recreational access on their land. The Access Fund is collaborating with the Illinois Climbers Association and local regional coordinator on risk management strategies for the area, as well as a political advocacy strategy to address this issue at the state legislative level.
This amended state law now limits liability protections to hunting or recreational shooting only. Despite a long history of open access at Draper’s Bluff, the climber-friendly landowners felt compelled to close Draper’s to climbing due to increased risk of liability. However, the landowners have encouraged the climbing community to take action and urge amendment to the state’s recreational user statute and have left open the possibility that Draper’s could be reopened to climbing in the future.
Part of our collective political advocacy strategy will be a letter writing campaign to harness the voices of the climbing community. Please stay tuned to Illinois Climbers Association/Access Fund news and action alerts to learn how you can contribute to an organized effort to address this issue.
Read letter from the landowner.
For more information, visit the Illinois Climbers Association’s website
Mid-Atlantic Climbers Receive Special Thanks from Park Service
Last month, Access Fund headquarters received a letter of gratitude from the Shenandoah National Park superintendent, calling out the exemplary work of the Mid-Atlantic Climbers (MAC) at their recent Shenandoah Rockfest Adopt a Crag event. Nice letters from the Department of the Interior don’t come around often, and they are worthy of special kudos from the climbing community. This type of recognition helps establish climbers as a responsible user group, which benefits all of us!
Special thanks to Mid-Atlantic Climbers and all of their dedicated volunteers.
Obama Administration Takes Action to Safeguard Roadless Areas
Earlier this spring, the Access Fund and its Outdoor Alliance partners urged the Secretary of Agriculture to take a “time out” on new developments in Roadless Areas until conflicting court rulings regarding their protection could be resolved. We are happy to report that on May 28, the Obama Administration agreed with this approach and deferred key backcountry management decisions to the Secretary of Agriculture, helping conserve important undeveloped Forest Service Roadless Areas valued for recreation.
In 2001, President Clinton issued the Roadless Area Conservation Rule in order to protect these habitats from development. Then in 2005, the Bush Administration sought to replace the rule with a discretionary state petition process. Today, conflicting and pending court decisions leave the status of the Roadless Rule uncertain. As a result, 58.5 million acres of inventoried Roadless Areas are at risk, which could make them ineligible from future protections.
The new “time out” directive means that a high-level review is now required for proposed backcountry developments until permanent rules for these areas’ management can be resolved.
This is directive has positive implications for the protection of several popular climbing areas that lie within inventoried Roadless Areas across the West, including: Cochise Stronghold/Dragoon Mountains in Arizona, Blodgett Canyon and Bitterroot Mountains in Montana and Greyrock's and Big Rock Candy Mountain in Colorado. It also bodes well for many climbing areas that face directly into Roadless Areas, such as The Needles in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Queen Creek, AZ Land Exchange Bill Introduced Into the Congress
On May 20, Arizona’s US Representative Ann Kirkpatrick introduced a House bill authorizing the exchange of popular bouldering area Oak Flat to Resolution Copper Mining. The Queen Creek Coalition (QCC) local climbing organization quickly issued a statement indicating that they could not endorse legislation which authorizes the transfer and makes possible the eventual destruction of the unique climbing resource at Oak Flat. In early June, the Access Fund met with Congressional offices in Washington, DC and relayed the QCC’s updated position statement to US Senate and House staff who indicated that numerous hurdles still block this land exchange bill from advancing.
A large copper ore deposit sits near and potentially under what is referred to as “Oak Flat.” A little over a year ago, members of the Arizona rock climbing community formed the Queen Creek Coalition (QCC) to look after climber interests with regard to the proposed exchange of Oak Flat by Resolution Copper Mining. The land exchange and resulting mining operations will destroy or eliminate the climbing area.
While Resolution Copper has made good faith efforts to address concerns of the climbing community, they have indicated that the QCC’s primary concern to maintain the surface and ecology of the land above the mine can not be alleviated.
If passed, the new House bill (H.R. 2509) will authorize the land exchange and most likely lead to the destruction of the Oak Flat climbing environment. However, there are other concerns related to this exchange bill that could prevent it from passing, including the lack of an environmental analysis and impacts on Native American cultural resources. A hearing on the “companion” Senate bill (S. 409) has been scheduled for June 17.
For more information, visit the Energy & Natural Resource Committee or the Queen Creek Coalition’s website.
Copp, Dash, Johnson Feared Missing on China Expedition
June 5, 2009, Boulder, CO—Three Boulder, Colorado climbers—Jonathan Copp (age 35), Micah Dash (age 30), and Wade Johnson (age 24)—are overdue, having missed their flight on June 3 from Chengdu, China. Both Jonathan and Micah are Access Fund Athlete Ambassadors.
The three traveled to Mount Edgar (6818 meters/22,368 feet) on the Minya Konka massif, Western Sichuan Province, China. They embarked from base camp on May 20, 2009. There hasn’t been any contact with the climbers since.
Copp and Dash are highly experienced alpinists and professional climbers who have many years experience tackling big unclimbed mountains around the world. They received the Mugs Stump Award grant for this expedition from the American Alpine Club in 2008 but had to delay the climb until now, due to political unrest in the region. Johnson (a photographer with Sender Films) was accompanying Dash and Copp to base camp and did not intend to attempt the climb to the summit.
On June 4, 2009, a small party of experienced climbers, organized through the Sichuan Mountaineering Association, arrived in “base camp” and are preparing to continue up to the “advanced base camp” to gather information. Search efforts are being professionally coordinated by friends and colleagues in Boulder and more climbers from China and the US are being deployed to the area. Developing information will be shared as soon as it is available.
“We’re taking all the necessary steps to gather information about the climbers’ whereabouts and haven’t identified any complications beyond their lateness. Although we’re concerned, in alpine climbing it’s not unusual to for climbers to be delayed or out of contact for this long. We are still hopeful,” says Robb Shurr, spokesperson for the search effort.
A fund to help assist in rescue efforts has been set up at http://adventurefilm.org/.
No other information is currently available. As soon as more information becomes available it will be shared. Please do not contact friends and family due to the sensitive nature of the situation.
CRAG-VT Completes Purchase of Upper West Bolton Cliff
The Climbing Resource Access Group of Vermont (CRAG-VT) completed the subdivision and purchase of Upper West Bolton Cliff in Bolton, VT, establishing permanent protection of the area’s natural and recreational resources.
Upper West Bolton Cliff is one of Vermont’s most historic climbing areas with exceptional views, four-season hiking, and a treasure trove of botanical specimens. The 18-acre area’s rock faces, hilltop summit, and boulder field have been closed to recreational use in the past. Over the last 18 months, CRAG-VT worked with landowners, local officials, and sponsors to subdivide and acquire the cliff, keeping the area protected from development and open to outdoor enthusiasts forever.
“The success of this project could not have been achieved without the fantastic outpouring of support from our community,” said Travis Peckham, president of CRAG-VT. “We are very grateful to the local climbers, businesses, conservation groups, landowners, and outdoor enthusiasts who played a key role in protecting this very special place for future generations. Special thanks is due the Access Fund and The Conservation Alliance for their generous grants."
CRAG-VT is currently working with the Vermont Land Trust (VLT) to donate a conservation easement that will guarantee public access, climbing, and preservation of the cliff’s natural environment. This easement will ensure that the VLT will defend these rights on the land forever regardless of who owns it.
CRAG-VT is an Access Fund affiliate volunteer-run organization dedicated to preserving access and promoting conservation of Vermont’s climbing areas. Over its 10-year history, the group has been a resource for climbing access, species and habitat protection, trail maintenance and more. CRAG-VT has permanently protected three other climbing destinations in Vermont – the popular Lower West Bolton Cliff, the 82 Crag, and Bolton Quarry. Please visit www.cragvt.org to learn more.
Option Secured to Purchase Lower Index Town Wall, WA
The Access Fund announced today that an option agreement to purchase the 20-acre private inholding at the Lower Index Town Walls of Snohomish County, Washington has been secured. This popular climbing area boasts several hundred quality granite climbing routes and is only an hour drive from Seattle. Its proximity to a major metropolitan area and its short 5-minute approach from the trailhead make this cliff line a popular after work or after school climbing destination for the Seattle-Everett area.
The Lower Index Town Wall was closed earlier this year when local climbers saw No Trespassing signs suddenly posted around the cliff. The private landowner revoked access to the property after quarrying companies began displaying renewed interest in quarrying and granite removal. The landowner then began negotiations for sale of the property to two interested quarrying companies.
Upon news of potential sale of the crag, climbers quickly turned this threat into an opportunity. The Access Fund and Washington Climbers Coalition rallied together to research quarry regulations, comparable sales, and title history to determine the best path forward. Negotiations soon began to determine a fair market price and terms for a potential acquisition of the property by the climbing community. Jonah Harrison, member of the Washington Climbers Coalition and volunteer regional coordinator for the Access Fund led negotiations with the landowner, with support from Joe Sambataro, Access Director at the Access Fund. Matt Perkins, Darryl Cramer, and Andy Fitz of Washington Climbers Coalition also played critical support roles.
turned this threat into an opportunity."
After weeks of negotiations, the landowner agreed to an initial payment of $10,000 for an Option Agreement to purchase the property within 18 months. This agreement gives the Washington Climbers Coalition the sole right to purchase the property for long-term management, or assign the property to Washington State Parks. This option payment is made possible by a loan from the Access Fund, giving the Washington Climbers Coalition and the local climbing community the time and ability to fundraise toward a set goal. The American Alpine Club, as well as countless others, have offered their fundraising expertise to help complete the purchase. The Access Fund will continue to play a lead role with the Washington Climbers Coalition in transaction management, title work, and fundraising.
While the Option Agreement is secured and purchase price is set, there are other longer term issues that need to be addressed at this popular cliff. “Project Index” will address proper sanitation and parking. A preliminary wetland study is already underway to determine if a new parking area and vault toilet can be located on State Park land in a central area for access to both the Lower Wall and Upper Wall.
Announcements of the final fundraising goal are expected to be released by August of this year. In the meantime, the private landowner has agreed to reinstate public access during the 18-month option period, a privilege the climbing community can appreciate as summer in the Pacific Northwest unfolds.
For more information, contact Jonah Harrison at email@example.com or Joe Sambataro at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.washingtonclimbers.org for new updates.
History of the area
The Lower Index Town Wall and surrounding cliffs have a climbing history going back nearly 50 years. The cliffs are beloved by sport climbers, traditional climbers, aid climbers and boulderers alike. Throughout the early part of the 20th century, the landowner’s family quarried parts of the Lower Town Wall for granite until the Burlington Northern railroad moved closer to the wall in the 1960s. Quarrying was put on hold, but ownership was maintained by the family heirs. Initial attempts were made by Washington State Parks and the Access Fund in 1999 to transfer the property to state park ownership, yet its high potential mineral value impeded any action at the time.
Photos: Ben Gilkison