Congress Serves up a Major Blow to Oak Flat Climbing
Almost sixty years ago, President Eisenhower withdrew Oak Flat, home to hundreds of roped climbs and thousands of bouldering problems outside of Pheonix, Arizona, from mining in order to protect its recreation, ecological, and spiritual values. For over ten years, a foreign mining company has sought to override this order of protection by passing a public land exchange bill that would allow them to take possession of the land for creation of a massive copper mine. Access Fund has fought every bill put in front of Congress that would hand over Oak Flat and result in the single largest loss of climbing resources ever.
We are devastated to report that both the Senate and the US House of Representatives passed the Oak Flat land exchange bill in early December by burying it in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The NDAA was a 1,600 page bill that packaged several land bills alongside the Defense bill. There was no opportunity for public involvement or input. The Access Fund vocally opposed this move to policy makers in both the House and Senate who had the power to intervene, but they all supported the lands package in its entirety. The Senators who opposed the land exchange were not allowed to make any changes to the bills included within the NDAA. Representative Tom Cole, a Republican from Oklahoma, stated: "the inclusion of this bill (H.R. 687) in an omnibus lands package that twice failed on its own merits to pass a floor vote in the House, subverts the actual will of the House of Representatives."
This is a significant setback for the climbing community, but there will be more opportunities to oppose the destruction of the Oak Flat climbing area. The bill included a provision that the proposed mine is subject to an environmental assessment (NEPA) before the exchange is executed. The NEPA process mandates public review and the Access Fund will continue to fight the proposed mining operations. The Access Fund remains strongly aligned in the fight to save Oak Flat with the San Carlos Apache Tribe (check out this compelling video), the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, the National Congress of American Indians, the Sierra Club, The Center for Biological Diversity, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Concerned Climbers of Arizona, the Concerned Citizens & Retired Miners of Superior, the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition, Earthworks, Outdoor Alliance and others.
Unaweep Cliffs Saved For Climbing
Western Colorado Climbers’ Coalition (WCCC) and the Access Fund are pleased to announce the purchase of two major cliffs in Unaweep Canyon that secure permanent public access. Acquisition of the Television Wall and Lower Mothers Buttress culminates a 25-year history of conservation and public access along this portion of the Unaweep/Tabeguache Scenic Byway.
This purchase adds 40 acres of land that hosts more than 50 high-quality granite climbing routes to previously protected lands. Public access to these walls was closed three years ago when the property owner sought to sell the property. After two years of negotiations to purchase or lease the cliff line, WCCC and Access Fund reached an agreement to obtain the properties.
“It is very exciting to have this long-term project come to fruition,” says Jesse Zacher, WCCC President. “After many years of negotiations and planning, it is fantastic to see it all finally coming together. Public access to these previously closed cliffs is a great asset for present and future public recreation groups.”
These two major crags are adjacent to the Sunday Wall, which was purchased by the Access Fund in 1991 in partnership with three local climbers, and the Upper Mothers Buttress, which was secured in 2010 by WCCC with the help of Colorado climbers John and Marti Peterson. With much of the canyon privately held, WCCC, Access Fund, and local climbers have worked diligently to purchase the unique granite cliffs of Unaweep over the last two decades.
Steve Johnson, chair of the Access Fund Loan and Acquisitions Committee and Regional Coordinator for western Colorado commented, “This land acquisition is important for climbers across the region and the nation because it unlocks access to great multi-pitch granite crags in a really scenic location. Acquisition of the Lower Mothers Buttress and the Television Wall consolidates free public access to the major cliffs in Unaweep.”
With a narrow window of time to protect the properties, Access Fund awarded WCCC with a Climbing Preservation Grant to defray closing costs and an Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign low-interest loan of $134,200 to acquire the threatened climbing area. Access Fund and WCCC have applied for a significant grant from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), a lottery-funded open space grant program. The project provides a unique opportunity to preserve conservation and recreation values in the geologically unique canyon of the Uncompahgre Plateau. The GOCO application comes with additional support from Mesa County’s Board of County Commissioners, Mesa Land Trust, Conservation Colorado, the American Alpine Club, and National Outdoor Leadership School. If WCCC is unable to secure sufficient funds from grants or private donors, it will pursue an alternative plan to subdivide the cliffs from the total of 40 acres, and will sell two home sites, while preserving the cliffs in perpetuity.
WCCC now needs the support of climbers, recreationalists, and the people of western Colorado to pay back the loan and fundraise for stewardship of Unaweep Cliffs. Donations are encouraged and can be made to WCCC at www.westernslopeclimbers.blogspot.com.
WCCC is extremely grateful for the important role of its partners and volunteers. Significant funding was received from the Aspen, Colorado-based Alpenglow Foundation, the family foundation of climbers John and Laurel Catto, and Shaw Construction in Grand Junction. As a Telluride-based real estate attorney, Steve Johnson provided pro bono legal services to WCCC in connection with the purchase. Dave Foley provided pro bono survey work, and the appraisal work was also donated.
The realtor assisting both parties in the transaction, Christi Reece of Bray & Company, also generously donated $5,000 of her commission. “I want to show [our local leaders] what a group of committed citizens can do for our community. My dad, William C. Hall, was a realtor and was instrumental in preserving the Hartman Rocks area in Gunnison (CO) when it came up for sale, in similar fashion, and I can’t imagine Gunnison without it. I didn’t want to see these properties lost to owners who would not allow the climbing to continue.”
The WCCC plans to partner with Access Fund to host a trail day on October 26th to link existing trails to the new cliffs.
Hidden Valley Reopened!
The Access Fund and Carolina Climbers Coalition (CCC) are thrilled to announce the acquisition of a large portion of the Hidden Valley climbing area (also known as ‘Abingdon’) in southwest Virginia.The property is located next to Hidden Valley Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and creates access to hundreds of single-pitch sport, mixed, and traditional climbs on unique, high-quality sandstone. .
Hidden Valley was a popular southeastern and mid-Atlantic climbing destination in the late 90s and early 2000s. Access to the area was privately owned and later closed to the public in 2004 due to vandalism and management concerns. The area remained closed despite efforts from local climbers and volunteers. In April of last year, landowners Jeanean Dillard and Suichi “Koma” Komaba approached the Access Fund with an interest in selling a portion of their property that would provide public access to the nearly one mile of cliffline that abuts their land. After kicking off discussions with the landowners, Access Fund reached out to nearby local climbing organizations to see if one of them would be willing to acquire and hold the property for long-term management and conservation. CCC was immediately interested.
“Hidden Valley was a popular spot for North Carolina climbers, so we were very familiar with the area,” explains Brian Payst CCC President. “Our board quickly recognized the need for a local group to step up and conserve this historic climbing area.” CCC has a long history of climbing area acquisition and management, including the popular Laurel Knob and the West Side boulders of Rumbling Bald. CCC also leases access to Asheboro Boulders, and most recently, Sauratown cliff. Hidden Valley marks their third successful climbing area acquisition.
Access Fund southeastern staff worked in partnership with the CCC for the past year and half to complete the initial survey, due diligence, and finalize negotiations with the landowners. The Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign provided a loan to the CCC for $30,000 to bridge the gap between available funds and the $45,000 price tag. The CCC closed on the 21-acre property today, putting down $15,000 of its own funds and covering the due diligence and transaction costs necessary to secure access to almost half of the Hidden Valley climbing area. CCC now needs your support to pay off the remaining portion of the loan and steward this climbing area for generations to come.
“The Access Fund is proud to be a part protecting the Hidden Valley climbing area,” says Executive Director Brady Robinson. “We are also proud of our partnership with Carolina Climbers Coalition, who stepped up to purchase and steward this important area.”
The landowners are also excited to see Hidden Valley re-opened to the public. “We’re happy to see the area enter a new era of public access,” says Jeanean Dillard. “Climbers can now cherish, protect and enjoy Hidden Valley as much as our friends and family have,” says Suichi Komaba.
CCC will manage the climbing area in partnership with Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries whose adjacent WMA includes the current parking lot and a large portion of the area’s cliff line. Climbers using the area must have a valid Access Permit, or a Virginia hunting or fishing license. Permits may be purchased online at www.dgif.virginia.gov/permits.
CCC’s stewardship of Hidden Valley will also be supported by the Southwest Virginia Climbers Coalition (SVCC), a new local climbing organization working to preserve and protect an expanding number of high quality climbing resources in Virginia’s southwestern corner, including the popular bouldering at Grayson Highlands.
This acquisition reopens access to almost half of the routes at the Hidden Valley climbing area. It also ensures that climbers have a permanent entry point to the entire area from Hidden Valley Road. Access Fund, CCC, and SVCC are continuing to work together to secure access to the remaining portion of Hidden Valley’s cliff line.
To donate to the project and learn more about the upcoming opening date, work days and ways you can help visit www.carolinaclimbers.org.
New Bouldering Area in Lake Lure, NC
The Blue Ridge of western North Carolina has a new climbing area in a city park. The Town of Lake Lure has opened a bouldering area in their new Buffalo Creek Park. It features massive, house-sized boulders on the same high quality rock of nearby Rumbling Bald. The park also offers miles of mountain biking and hiking trails, and will eventually connect with nearby Chimney Rock State Park. "We're really excited to add to climbing opportunities available in the Lake Lure area," says Chris Braund, Lake Lure Town Manager. Carolina Climbers' Coalition (CCC) and volunteers completed a trail day at the area in late August, building access trails to the impressive boulders. CCC will continue to work with the town to provide ongoing climbing management support for Buffalo Creek Park. Learn more about this area from Lake Lure Buffalo Creek Park and Mountain Project.
Second Round Grants Awarded
The Access Fund is pleased to announce that it has awarded over $16,912 in the second round of the 2014 Climbing Preservation Grants Program. Each year, the Access Fund awards up to $40,000 in grant money to local climbing communities with worthy projects that preserve or enhance climbing access. The Access Fund Climbing Preservation Grants Program is an example of membership dollars at work in local climbing communities across the country. Again this round, Access Fund members got the opportunity to review qualifying grant projects and rate them, providing valuable input to our grant selection committee as to which projects they want their contributions to support. We are pleased to announce funding for the following worthy projects.
Carolina Climbers Coalition: Linville Gorge Rescue Assistance
The Carolina Climbers Coalition was awarded a grant to map the best access points for rescue teams in order to speed rescue for injured climbers, improve climbing management, and help prevent access issues. After a rescue in Linville Gorge, NC resulted in a ticket for a climber, the Carolina Climbers Coalition (CCC) and other partners met with the rescue teams involved to determine better ways to collaborate together in future rescue efforts. Rescue teams expressed difficulty translating a route name into a location due to the complex cliff systems in Linville Gorge. This project is a direct result of that successful collaboration.
Friends of Muir Valley: Repair of Muir Valley Access Road
Friends of Muir Valley (FOMV) was awarded matching funds to complete important repairs to Muir Valley’s emergency access road, allowing first responders’ immediate access to all climbing areas within the valley in a timely manner. The grant will go toward installation of 400 linear feet of honeycombed geocell, filled with aggregate. This long-term, self-sustaining action will end a ten-year battle of costly repairs and prevent future erosion on this critical section of the emergency road.
Friends of Staunton State Park: Climber Kiosk
The Friends of Staunton State Park was awarded a grant for a climber kiosk at Colorado’s newest State Park. The kiosk will provide climbers with information regarding park resources, regulations, seasonal closures, and the importance of a Fixed Hardware Review Group. Currently, this information can only be found online or on a print out at the entrance gate. The new kiosk will be strategically located along the Staunton Ranch trail, which is the main trail that accesses all of the climbing within park boundaries.
The Nature Conservancy, Tennessee Chapter: Lily Boulder Fields Signage
The Tennessee Chapter of the Nature Conservancy (TNC) was awarded matching funds to develop and install an interpretive panel sign at the entrance of the Lily Boulder Fields. The popular boulders are part of the Obed Wild and Scenic River, which hosts thousands of climbers on both National Park Service (NPS) and Nature Conservancy lands. TNC is partnering with East Tennessee Climbers Coalition and NPS on the design and language of the sign, which will provide information on the natural and cultural resources of the area and encourage responsible use for all who visit this special place.
North Carolina Outward Bound School: Table Rock Kiosk and Trail Maintenance
North Carolina Outward Bound School was awarded a grant to rebuild the informational kiosk in the Table Rock parking lot, which is currently in disrepair, and purchase trail service tools to maintain this heavily loved area. The Table Rock parking lot is the access point for numerous climbing areas, including Table Rock, The Chimneys, and Linville Gorge. Thousands of climbers visit this area each year on their way to the easily accessed crags, moderate multi-pitch traditional climbs, and premiere wilderness climbing, all found in the area. North Carolina Outward Bound School plans to work with Carolina Climbers Coalition, the local American Alpine Club section, and other partners to complete this project.
Pikes Peak Climbers Alliance: Start Up Costs
The Pikes Peak Climbers Alliance (PPCA) was awarded a grant to assist with nonprofit filing fees. The newly formed organization works to steward and protect climbing resources in the Pikes Peak region of Colorado, including the South Platte and Shelf Road. The PPCA wishes to seek 501(c)(3) nonprofit status to initiate long-term partnerships and local support. PPCA will seek matching funds for other start-up costs, such as website development and informational pamphlets.
Western Colorado Climbers' Coalition: Unaweep Cliffs Acquisition
Western Colorado Climbers’ Coalition (WCCC) was awarded matching funds to purchase Television Wall and Lower Mothers Buttress in Unaweep Canyon. Both cliffs are critical inholdings adjacent to WCCC and Access Fund-owned cliffs in the canyon. Lower Mothers Buttress is a great crag for beginning climbers and Television Wall hosts most of the canyon’s new route development, and features several multi-pitch trad and sport lines that are challenging and aesthetic. “No Trespassing” signs were recently posted, and the climbing community has a small window of time to secure both of these crags.
Clifton Climbers Alliance Teams with Access Fund to Purchase Eagle Bluff
The Clifton Climbers Alliance (CCA) and Access Fund are thrilled to announce the final acquisition of Eagle Bluff in central Maine for permanent conservation and recreational access. In February 2014, the Access Fund secured an Option Agreement to purchase Eagle Bluff and a recreational lease to re-open this incredible area. In just six months, climbers and conservationists from New England and beyond have raised over $100,000. Access Fund assigned the Option Agreement to CCA, which completed the purchase this week. The Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign, the program that provides local climbing organizations with the funds and expertise needed to quickly save threatened climbing areas, provided a small loan to bridge the gap between available donations and pending grant applications.
“The Access Fund is proud to play a role in permanently protecting Eagle Bluff for conservation and recreation,” says Access Fund Executive Director Brady Robinson. “We are excited to support CCA and the local community of central Maine in this collaborative effort.”
Climbers have been enjoying the granite cracks of Eagle Bluff since the late 1960s. Today, the area features over 130 cracks and sport climbs as well as bouldering below the bluff and a popular trail to the top of the bluff. In the mid-1990s, climbing access was threatened when the property was listed for sale. The Access Fund started working with the local climbing community to fundraise, but the previous owner was unwilling to wait, and local climber Donald Nelligan stepped up to purchase the property. Donald passed away in the Summer of 2013 with no will to outline the future of Eagle Bluff, and the Nelligan family closed public access due to liability concerns and immediately sought to sell the property.
The Access Fund and CCA would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to everyone who generously donated to save Eagle Bluff. “The amount of support for this effort has been overwhelming,” says Ben Townsend, an attorney and longtime climber who has volunteered legal services for the project. “Don Nelligan had a vision that Eagle Bluff would be a public resource for rock climbing, hiking, and other public recreation, and by acquiring this property, we're pleased to be able to assure the long-term protection of that goal."
This project was made possible by hundreds of individual donations, as well as key support from the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Boston Chapter Mountaineering Committee, CCA Bluff Fest supporters, Quimby Family Foundation, Black Diamond Equipment, Davis Family Foundation, and an anonymous major donor. The Town of Clifton Planning Board Chair and Maine Coast Heritage Trust provided valuable in-kind support. CCA and the Access Fund have additional grant applications pending to fully fund the acquisition and stewardship of Eagle Bluff. CCA received initial approval on a grant from Land for Maine’s Future, a competitive state funding source reserved for critical conservation and recreational areas like Eagle Bluff. Additional steps are required to receive final approval from the State of Maine, which is anticipated later in the year.
“Clifton Climbers Alliance has a long-term goal of assuring responsible stewardship of the unique climbing resources of Eagle Bluff,” says Jeremy Robichaud, President of CCA. “Purchasing the property is a great first step.” CCA is in the process of identifying priorities for needed improvements for public access, which may include signs, work on the parking areas, and possibly a vault toilet.
The Clifton Climbers Alliance works to conserve and protect climbing resources in the Clifton area and Central Maine. As a newly formed Maine nonprofit organization, CCA is prepared to manage Eagle Bluff for future generations to enjoy in its natural state. For more information, visit www.cliftonclimbersalliance.org.
Access Fund Launches Climber Education Program with Black Diamond
We are thrilled to announce the launch of a new climber education program—ROCK Project—in partnership with Black Diamond Equipment®, a global innovator in climbing, skiing, mountain sports equipment and apparel.
Unprecedented access to indoor climbing has paved the way for astounding growth in both indoor and outdoor climbing. Many climbers receive little to no formal training or mentorship before their first outdoor climbing experience, which puts our climbing areas at risk of unmanaged impacts and access issues. The Access Fund and Black Diamond seek to address this need through ROCK Project—a first of its kind initiative designed to inspire climbers to protect the places they climb through responsible, low-impact climbing behaviors.
“It’s vital to educate the climbing community on minimizing impacts at climbing areas and to inspire behavior that will ensure continued access to the places they love,” explains Brady Robinson, executive director of the Access Fund. “Black Diamond shares these values and we’re thrilled to be working with them on this program.”
More than 1,400 indoor climbing gyms exist in North America, serving an estimated 4,300 new climbers each day. Predictably, a significant portion of those indoor climbers eventually participate in outdoor climbing as well (a 2012 study showed 27% of outdoor climbers were new to the sport). ROCK Project intends to educate and inspire this transitional segment of gym-to-crag climbers, as well as more seasoned outdoor climbers, through multi-day events with Black Diamond athletes at climbing epicenters throughout the nation. These events will build awareness of responsible outdoor climbing ethics and give climbers opportunities to practice in hands-on crag maintenance and care through Access Fund’s Adopt a Crag program.
“Black Diamond and The Access Fund are leaders in the climbing industry and community, and with our ROCK Project partnership we are continuing our unwavering commitment to climbing, climbers and climbing areas,” says Jonathan Thesenga, global sports marketing manager at Black Diamond. “We couldn’t be more stoked on this initiative and our partnership with our friends at the Access Fund. For more than 50 years we have been—and continue to be—a company of climbers, and ROCK Project embodies that heritage and commitment.”
Black Diamond’s support of ROCK Project will expand Access Fund’s education capacity, allowing the organization to build awareness and knowledge of responsible outdoor climbing ethics. Access Fund has hired Travis Herbert—a 20-year climbing veteran, experienced outdoor educator, and systems builder—to spearhead ROCK Project under the role of Education Director.
ROCK Project will work to create lasting connections between our daily habits and behaviors as climbers and our ability to keep climbing areas open and conserve the climbing environment. The ROCK Project initiative will include a web-based toolbox that aggregates existing and newly developed educational materials, programming, templates, exemplary case studies, and community contacts—giving local climbing organizations, key retailers, and climbing gyms the tools they need to spread a consistent message that promotes responsible outdoor climbing ethics. Access Fund will work closely with Black Diamond and other leaders in the climbing community (including local climbing organizations, climbing gyms, outdoor retailers, climbing guide services, professional climbing athletes, university outing clubs, and the outdoor industry) to build and distribute education content.
Conservation Team Hits its Stride
On the road for 158 days so far this year, the Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team has traveled from Colorado to New Hampshire and back again, and they have accomplished a lot on the first half of their nationwide road trip to improve our climbing areas. So far this year they’ve helped steward 18 climbing areas across the country, building 6,920 feet of new trail, constructing 16 stone staircases, eliminating 800 feet of social trails, and much more. After a much deserved vacation, Mike and Amanda will spend some time in Wyoming, Utah, and Idaho before heading to the Pacific Northwest. You can follow the Conservation Team on their facebook page at www.facebook.com/conservationteam.
Red River Gorge Climbers’ Coalition and Access Fund Offer Joint Membership
The Access Fund and Red River Gorge Climbers’ Coalition (RRGCC) are excited to announce they have combined forces to offer joint membership. Climbers can now join and support the Access Fund and RRGCC with a single membership. This new combined membership allows climbers to support national climbing access efforts and Red River Gorge access efforts with a single membership donation.
RRGCC has worked with public and private land owners to preserve and expand climbing in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge since 1996. The group owns and manages two climbing preserves, the Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve and the newly acquired Miller Fork Recreational Preserve, which together total over 1,000 acres and nearly as many routes. RRGCC also maintains crucial partnerships with local communities and land managers at places like Daniel Boone National Forest.
Last year, Access Fund and RRGCC worked together to successfully purchase and protect Miller Fork Recreational Preserve, a 309-acre tract of land containing numerous crags and miles of cliff. A largely undeveloped cliff line, the purchase of Miller Fork created a brand new climbing destination in the Red.
“We are proud of our work with the Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition and are excited to expand that partnership through joint membership,” says Brady Robinson, Access Fund Executive Director. “Joint membership will grow and strengthen our work together in one of country’s most important climbing regions.”
Access Fund’s joint membership initiative is part of the organization’s ongoing efforts to expand support for the nearly 90 affiliate local climbing organizations across the country. Launched in 2012, the joint membership initiative has grown to include twenty one local groups, with the RRGCC being the most recent to join. Access Fund provides full membership administration—member support services, database work, renewal mailings, etc.—and a greater level of support with membership events, communications, and program-related support for grants or access projects. “The joint membership model is about providing a service that makes local climbing organizations stronger,” says National Affiliate Director Zachary Lesch-Huie. “It allows local groups to use Access Fund’s existing membership systems and resources so they have more time and resources to focus on local issues.”
“We’re an all-volunteer organization, so time and money are precious,” explains Bentley Brackett, RRGCC President. “With Access Fund joint membership we get a national-level program without the administrative burden or overhead. We can grow our base of support while staying focused on direct stewardship and access work.”
Climbers can join RRGCC and Access Fund at www.accessfund.org/rrgcc. Climbers can also sign up in person at this weekend’s 10thAnnual RRGCC Johnny & Alex Trail Day, one of the largest Adopt a Crag events in the country. New joint member sign-ups will be entered into a raffle for climbing shoes and other great gear. Register for this event at http://rrgcc.org/jatd/jatd.php.
Access Fund Transfers Golden Cliffs to Jefferson County Open Space
To many climbers on the Front Range of Colorado, Golden Cliffs is a staple. New climbers test their skills on its basalt columns; outdoor programs expose youth to the thrill of climbing and importance of environmental stewardship; and seasoned climbers find its southern slopes a sunny winter escape.
The Access Fund has owned Golden Cliffs (aka North Table Mountain) since 1994, when previous owner Mayford Peery generously donated the 29-acre property to the climbing community after some concerns about liability. The Access Fund has held and managed the property for 20 years, with support from local climbers and volunteers.
In 2013, the Access Fund began investigating the possibility of transferring Golden Cliffs to Jefferson County Open Space, who has a long history of collaborative, climbing-friendly management of dozens of other crags along the Colorado Front Range. By transferring Golden Cliffs to trustworthy public ownership, the Access Fund could free up resources to invest in other climbing areas in need.
“Jefferson County has demonstrated a real commitment to recreation, and it’s obvious the County is the right home for this piece of property,” says Brady Robinson, Access Fund Executive Director.
We are excited to announce that after a year and a half of planning and due diligence, the Access Fund has donated Golden Cliffs to Jefferson County Open Space as of June 30, 2014. The Golden Cliffs trailhead and property will serve as the southern gateway to North Table Mountain Park. .
Climbers should be assured that climbing access at Golden Cliffs will not be affected by this transfer. The Access Fund has guaranteed that climbing access will not be affected unless natural disasters or wildlife protection issues temporarily restricts public access. If the County is unable to work within these agreements, the Access Fund will regain ownership of the cliffs. Seasoned climbing advocates Becky Hall and Chris Archer have contributed significant time and energy to safeguard this transition.
“We’re excited that this is going forward in a way that preserves the legacy of Mayford Peery and his generous gift to the climbing community,” says Joe Sambataro, National Access Director. Peery, who passed away in 2009 at the age of 89, made considerable contributions to the Golden community through conservation, development, and business.
Mark your calendars for a celebration event at Golden Cliffs the weekend of October 25th, 2014 to commemorate the legacy of Mayford Peery, celebrate 20 years of Access Fund ownership, and pass on this legacy to Jefferson County Open Space. Stay tuned for further details.
Climbing Saved with $1.1M Purchase of Rock Canyon, UT
A 15-year standoff comes to an end with a $1.1M acquisition by the City of Provo to keep mining out of the popular hiking and climbing area. Access Fund started working on this issue in 2004, providing support to local groups fighting to protect the area. Rock Canyon, one of Utah’s oldest climbing areas 40 miles south of Salt Lake City outside Provo, boasts over 500 quality sport and trad lines on high quality quartzite and limestone, including the longest sport climbs in Utah (20+ pitches). The climbs vary from classic moderates such as Green Monster and four-star 5.10's and 11's, to some of the hardest routes in Utah still yet to be repeated.
Court battles over split property ownership kept the excavation at bay for the last ten years. In 2003 one partner in the ownership group claimed mining rights to the mouth of the Canyon—which includes 75% of the canyon’s climbing—and attempted to turn the cliffs into a rock quarry operation. Meanwhile, his partners granted a conservation easement to Provo City with restrictions on mining, and the dispute landed in court over land ownership. The court ruled that Provo City owned 50% of the property and temporarily halted the quarry operation. The City just announced this April that it acquired full ownership of the property in a $1.1M settlement .
Provo Mayor John Curtis called Rock Canyon a "natural treasure" for the community. "The stunning majesty of the canyon walls fosters tranquillity, enhances our appreciation of nature’s forces and strengthens our sense of timelessness."
“We have every reason to believe that Provo will provide excellent stewardship for its community jewel,” states the Rock Canyon Preservation Alliance, a group of climbers and local citizens dedicated to protecting the Canyon.
Summit Rock Re-Opens
Summit Rock in Santa Clara County California re-opened to climbing this past fall for the first time in five years under a new permit program to protect peregrine falcons. This is the result of several years of advocacy by the Access Fund and local climbers to persuade the Santa Clara County Department of Parks and Recreation to convert the permanent closure of Summit Rock to an annual closure during the nesting season, consistent with peregrine management at other locations across the nation.
Summit Rock is one of several small cliffs in the hills above San Jose that are part of the Bay Area’s relatively sparse selection of climbing areas. In 2008, the parks department closed Summit Rock to climbing and hiking after a pair of peregrine falcons nested there. Access Fund Regional Coordinator Paul Minault initiated a series of meetings and correspondence with the department to change this to a seasonal closure. After some discussion, we brought in a world-renowned peregrine expert, Professor Clayton White of Brigham Young University, to examine the nesting site and consult with department staff regarding the site and the needs of the birds. Professor White’s consultation was made possible by a generous grant from local gym, Planet Granite. The parks department also saw the arrival of a new director after operating under an interim director for some time, and things began to move forward.
The park decided to allow climbing and hiking access to Summit Rock under a permit program, which was initiated in September of last year. Access was limited to Thursday through Sunday, with a maximum of 35 people a day. Volunteer monitors were enlisted by the department, with help from the Access Fund and local gyms and stores, to inform visitors about the closure, issue and explain the permits, and monitor the behavior of the birds. Senior Park Ranger Flint Glines, who managed the permit and monitoring program, was enthusiastic about its success. “This was a win-win for everybody. The monitors enjoyed meeting people and explaining to them the importance of protecting the birds, visitors responded well to the permit program, and the one falcon that was present was unperturbed by the visitors.” Glines looks forward to continuing the program next fall, incorporating a number of improvements.
We are so pleased to see local climbers and land managers come together to protect the falcons at Summit Rock and address the climbing area’s long-term stewardship. Local climber and conservation activist Matt Ulery of the Bay Area Climbers Coalition, who volunteered as a monitor for the permit program, is organizing a major work project at Summit Rock this coming October with the Access Fund Conservation Team. They will tackle trash, trail erosion, and removal of the horrendous graffiti caused by years of local kids partying in the area after dark. Local climbers interested in participating in the Summit Rock cleanup are encouraged to keep an eye on the Access Fund’s Adopt a Crag calendar for details. Bay Area climbers interested in caring for local crags are invited to join the soon-to-be formed Bay Area Climbers Coalition to keep up-to-date on future conservation events.
The Access Fund Seeks National Seal of Approval
Access Fund is pleased to announce that we are applying for accreditation by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission.
“Voluntary, independent accreditation will give the Access Fund greater credibility and respect with landowners, donors, public policy makers and other stakeholders,” says Access Fund Executive Director Brady Robinson. “I believe it will enhance our efforts to keep important climbing areas open and conserve America’s climbing environment.”
Accreditation is a mark of distinction in land conservation. To date only 254 of the nearly 1,700 land trusts in the U.S. have been accredited. The accreditation seal provides the public with an assurance that the accredited organization has the ways and means to protect important natural places forever.
The rigorous accreditation program recognizes land conservation organizations that demonstrate compliance with the Land Trust Alliance (LTA) Standards and Practices. The Standards and Practices are the ethical and technical guidelines established in 1989 by the LTA for the responsible operation of a land trust.
As an important part of the process, the Accreditation Commission invites public input and accepts signed, written comments on pending applications. Comments must relate to how the Access Fund complies with the LTA Standards and Practices. For the full list of standards see www.landtrustaccreditation.org/tips-and-tools/indicator-practices.
To learn more about the accreditation program and to submit a comment, visit www.landtrustaccreditation.org. You can email your comment to firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments may also be submitted to:
Land Trust Accreditation Commission
Attn: Public Comments
36 Phila St., Suite 2
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
Comments may also be faxed to 518-587-3183.
Comments on the Access Fund’s application will be most useful if they are received by Sunday, November 23, 2014.
Mountain Hardwear Signs on as Supporting Sponsor of Access Fund - Jeep® Conservation Team
The Access Fund is excited to announce that Mountain Hardwear has signed on as a supporting sponsor of the Access Fund’s traveling Conservation Team.
The Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team employs two, full-time conservation/trail building experts who travel the country in a 2014 Jeep Cherokee to help maintain climbing areas throughout the United States. The team works with local climbers to address conservation needs and provide training on planning and stewardship best practices.
This program extends the success of the Access Fund’s existing Adopt a Crag and TeamWorks stewardship programs that help local climbers around the country take care of the places they play. The Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team provides climbing communities and volunteers with the training and resources they need to address conservation issues before they become dire.
The Access Fund is proud to have additional support from Mountain Hardwear on this important conservation initiative that will result in healthier climbing areas for everyone to enjoy. Mountain Hardwear is a leader in the outdoor industry, dedicated to protecting the places we play outdoors through stewardship, volunteerism, and education.
Look for the Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team at a climbing area or climbing event near you. You can follow the Conservation Team tour on their facebook page at www.facebook.com/conservationteam.
Access Fund Announces First Round Grant Recipients for 2014
The Access Fund is pleased to announce that it has awarded over $21,000 in this first round of the 2014 Climbing Preservation Grants Program. Each year, the Access Fund awards up to $40,000 in grant money to local climbing communities with worthy projects that preserve or enhance climbing access. The Access Fund Climbing Preservation Grants Program is an example of membership dollars at work in local climbing communities across the country. Again this round, Access Fund members got the opportunity to review qualifying grant projects and rate them, providing valuable input to our grant selection committee as to which projects they want their contributions to support. We are pleased to announce funding for the following worthy projects.
Blount County: Palisades Park Acquisition (AL)
Blount County was awarded funding for the purchase of 20 acres adjacent to Palisades Park near Oneonta, Alabama. The private property features approximately 750 feet of bluff for rock climbing and scenic views, as well as several large, quality boulders. The acquisition will protect the forested area’s beautiful natural setting and a variety of plants and wildlife that will enhance the existing park. The climber-friendly county has received positive feedback and support from the climbing community and local partner Southeastern Climbers Coalition.
Central Wyoming Climbers Alliance: Start-Up Costs (WY)
Wyoming climbers were awarded grant funding to form the Central Wyoming Climbers Alliance, a coalition to support climbing areas and grassroots efforts such as the International Climbers Festival and anchor replacement. The local climbing organization plans to serve as the formal, on-the-ground partner with land managers and the outdoor community to protect popular climbing areas such as Sinks Canyon, Wild Iris, the Wind River Range, and various bouldering areas. The fundingwill help cover the cost of seeking federal 501(c)(3) nonprofit status so local climbers can better work for the needs of the central Wyoming climbing community.
Clifton Climbers Alliance: Eagle Bluff Acquisition (ME)
Clifton Climbers Alliance was awarded funding to help save Eagle Bluff, a popular crag in Clifton, Maine, that was closed to climbing in 2013 and put up for sale. Climbing began here in the late 1960s and features over 130 cracks and sport climbs as well as bouldering below the bluff. Eagle Bluff has introduced many people to outdoor climbing and is utilized by several local groups and organizations. The climbing community has secured the sole right to acquire Eagle Bluff with an Option Agreement currently held by the Access Fund, and has until August 1st to raise $150,000 to protect this beautiful dome rising from the Maine woods.
Daniel Boone National Forest: Red River Gorge Staging Area Impact Study (KY)
Daniel Boone National Forest was awarded funding to help recreation planner and graduate student Nicholas Walendziak conduct an important research project at climbing areas in the Red River Gorge of Kentucky. The project will compare and analyze the biophysical impact trends at staging areas below popular climbs with the same standardized data collection employed in 2008. The results will inform a climbing management plan to keep recreational impacts within the Forest Service’s Limits of Acceptable Change. The research will also help partners, such as the Red River Gorge Climber’s Coalition, to prioritize trail projects.
Manti-La Sal National Forest: Mill Creek Trail Improvements and Kiosk (UT)
The Manti-La Sal National Forest was awarded funding to enhance access to the increasingly popular Mill Creek Gorge climbing area outside Moab, Utah. The area currently lacks a designated trail system to the climbs, and with the increasing amount of human impacts, climbing access is likely to be threatened in the near future. Manti-La Sal National Forest will use grant funding to design and construct a sustainable access trail and install an information kiosk at the trailhead to reduce the impacts of human use on the sensitive riparian area. Friends of Indian Creek will provide volunteer support to help ensure a future of sustainable climbing access.
Red River Gorge Climber's Coalition (RRGCC): Miller Fork Infrastructure Improvements (KY)
RRGCC was awarded funding for improvements to Miller Fork Recreational Preserve (MFRP), a previously undeveloped 300-acre area in Lee County, Kentucky, which they purchased last year. Route development has already begun at the MFRP, but the area lacks a sustainable trail system, bridges, and parking. RRGC will use grant funds to create a parking area for over 30 cars, bridges to cross numerous creeks on the property, and a sustainable trail system, providing access to over 20 crags with over 250 newly developed climbs.
Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI): Shelf Road Trail Improvements (CO)
RMFI was awarded funding to improve the trail infrastructure at the Bank area of Shelf Road, Colorado. RMFI will improve 0.5 miles of climbing access trails and restore 0.25 miles of heavily eroded social trails. Shelf Road continues to increase in popularity; a user count tallied over 30,000 visitors to the Bank Area in 2013. This project will result in improved access to the crag while building stewardship support for Shelf Road’s natural resources—protecting it for future recreational use.
Salt Lake Climbers Alliance (SLCA): Joe's Valley Recreation Site Assessment (UT)
SLCA was awarded funding to conduct a site assessment that will improve access and protect natural resources at Joe’s Valley in Utah, an expansive bouldering area of growing national popularity. SLCA will conduct professional GIS mapping and spatial analysis of bouldering sites, dispersed campsites, social trails, and parking. The data will be compiled into a formal report and give recommendations to the land managers of Joe’s Valley for future trail work, restoration, and recreational improvements. This assessment will serve as a model for other climbing areas and will set a precedent for land managers to seek input from recreation groups in their planning efforts.
Western Massachusetts Climbers' Coalition (WMCC): Farley Ledge Parking Improvements (MA)
The WMCC was awarded funding for parking improvements at Farley ledge, where they purchased property at the base of the cliff in 2007 to protect against potential development and provide access to the cliff and trail system. Farley’s popularity has continued to grow, and it is now necessary to improve portions of the current parking lot to alleviate concerns about erosion, rutting, and occasional inaccessibility. This funding will help pave the existing steep, gravel driveway to ensure a more sustainable and durable site, demonstrating a proactive resource management and improvement initiative.
Help Ensure Muir Valley Climbing Access
We have an exciting opportunity for Muir Valley ownership to be gifted to the climbing community to ensure climbing access in perpetuity. And you can play an important role in making this happen!
Over the past ten years, from the time they purchased undeveloped land in the Red River Gorge of Kentucky, Muir Valley landowners, Rick and Liz Weber, have developed it into a world-class climbing area. It has been the Webers’ vision to ultimately place this treasure in the hands of the climbing community. To make this vision a reality, the Webers, Friends of Muir Valley (FOMV), and the Access Fund have created a transition plan with a set of goals that, if accomplished in 2014, will result in the gifting of Muir Valley to the Friends of Muir Valley by March of 2015.
Before the transition can occur, FOMV must phase into responsibility for Muir Valley maintenance and must raise $200,000 in 2014 to cover operating/maintenance expenses, as well as the expenses associated with transfer of ownership and a stewardship fund for the property. None of the $200,000 to be raised is going to the Webers. Muir Valley is to be a gift from the Webers to the climbing community. For more information on this project, visit theFOMV website and the Muir Valley website.
We need your help! The climbing community has helped to make Muir Valley the incredible climbing destination it is today, and we are counting on you to help protect this legacy.
Adopt a Crag Season is Coming
Now that the holidays are over and the days are getting longer and warmer, many of us are thinking about climbing season. Now is also a great time to start thinking about your local climbing area and what it may need—perhaps a trash pick-up, graffiti removal, a new set of rock steps, or an information kiosk. Adopt a Crag events are one of the best ways to harness the power of volunteers and give back to our climbing areas. They also show land managers that climbers care about the places they recreate, which helps build strong partnerships that protect access. Now is the time to get together with your local climbing community to start planning your volunteer stewardship days. The Access Fund is here to help you plan your Adopt a Crag event. Take a look at our online resources,register your event, and reach out to us if you need help getting started.
Conservation Team Hits the Road
Amanda and Mike have spent the last few weeks dialing in their systems, ordering and sharpening tools, and learning about the Access Fund's work. Their first trail project is in Eldorado Canyon State Park before they head off to Moe’s Valley, Utah and then head East. You can keep tabs on where they've been and where they're headed next by following their geo blog and Facebook page. If you see the new Access Fund Jeep roll into your area, be sure to show Amanda and Mike some love as they work to improve our climbing areas!
Follow the Conservation Team!
Encouraging News for Sauratown Access
For years, North Carolina climbers found winter refuge at the steep quartzite of Sauratown Mountain, which hosts a bevy of high quality trad and sport routes (including Sauraballs, which Todd Skinner called one of the best 5.11s in the US). Sadly, in 2005 a fire (unrelated to climbers) resulted in the land owner closing the cliff.
Since the closure, the Carolina Climbers Coalition (CCC) has kept in touch with the land owner and worked on re-opening the cliff. In 2013, after a series of meetings and email exchanges, a deal was brokered for three weekends of access during the prime season. CCC volunteers got in before the initial weekend and replaced aging hardware and re-established the trail, prepping the cliff for climbers. So far, climbers have enjoyed two weekends at the crag, and there's still one more to go.
Because of the volunteer efforts and the way in which climbers have self-managed the cliff and access, relations between the CCC and the land owner are excellent, and the long-term outlook is encouraging. With continued diligence and conversations the CCC hopes to restore access to the crag for the current and future generations of climbers in the Carolinas.
Way to go CCC!
Save Eagle Bluff!
The Access Fund and Clifton Climbers Alliance are excited to announce that we have secured an Option Agreement on Eagle Bluff in Clifton, Maine, giving us the exclusive right to purchase the property for permanent conservation and climbing access. Now we need the climbing community’s help to raise $150,000 for the purchase and stewardship of Eagle Bluff.
Climbers have been enjoying the granite cracks of Eagle Bluff since the late 1960s. Today, the crag features over 130 cracks and sport climbs as well as bouldering below the bluff. In the mid-1990s, climbing access was threatened when the property was listed for sale. The Access Fund started working with the local climbing community to fundraise, but the previous owner was unwilling to wait. Fortunately, local climber Donald Nelligan stepped up to purchase the property with help from John Barker and Ward Smith, who also contributed time and resources to install fixed anchors and clean the cliff. Eagle Bluff is what it is today due to the dedication of Donald and his climbing partners.
Donald Nelligan passed away in the Summer of 2013, with no will to outline the future of Eagle Bluff. The Nelligan family closed public access due to liability concerns and immediately sought to sell the property.
With support from the Access Fund, representatives from the local climbing community, Town of Clifton, and Maine Coast Heritage Trust met with the family to determine a plan for permanent conservation. To continue Donald’s legacy, the Nelligan family agreed to sell the property for $125,000 once the community could raise the appropriate funds and complete its due diligence.
“The people of Clifton see Eagle Bluff as a priority for both conservation and recreation,” says Eric Johns, Planning Board Chair for the Town. “The Planning Board believes this unique parcel is critical to the development of outdoor recreational assets in the community.”
The Access Fund currently holds the Option Agreement, and has until August 1, 2014 to exercise the option to buy this 160-acre property. The Access Fund plans to assign the Option to either the Town of Clifton, the newly formed Clifton Climbers Alliance, or a local land trust for long-term management and stewardship.
“Eagle Bluff is a key climbing resource for climbers of Bangor and central Maine,” says Jayson Nissen of Clifton Climbers Alliance. “We reformed Clifton Climbers Alliance to help protect, fundraise, and steward the property.”
“Eagle Bluff is a unique feature, important to climbers, hikers and people who enjoy being out in nature. A broad group of people who truly care about this place have come together to create this opportunity to conserve it. Now, we all hope that everyone who cares about this place and about having access to special places like Eagle Bluff will contribute to help this project succeed.” says Ciona Ulbrich of Maine Coast Heritage Trust.
The Access Fund is excited to join this partnership with the Town, local climbers, and conservation community to preserve Eagle Bluff for future generations of climbers. Please make a donation today at www.accessfund.org/eaglebluff to protect this special New England climbing area!