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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.

Date: 5/12/2014