access agreements

Access agreements are a great tool for reopening closed climbing areas or providing public access to new areas. These agreements can take many forms—including recreational leases, stewardship agreements, access easements, climbing management agreements, and licenses—and can be tailored to the needs of the area. These types of agreements may be the key for public and private landowners to support climbing in their natural areas and parks.

A recreational lease is the most common type of access agreement, and is a written agreement between a landowner and an individual or organization that allows certain uses of the land during for a defined period of time. Typical recreational uses include climbing, hunting, fishing, camping, horseback riding, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing. Recreational leases can help owners who have trespass problems gain more control over their land. They can also add diversity and flexibility to usual operations, as well as increase cash income if annual lease payments are incorporated. See more important considerations on recreational leases.

In general, most access agreements are often temporary or non-binding in nature, assigning rights and responsibilities to the climbing community and landowners. An effective agreement should anticipate possible problems and describe how each would be resolved.

One potential model is a jointly held agreement or lease with the private/public landowner, Access Fund, and a local climbing organization (LCO). The benefits of such an agreement would be:

  • The Access Fund provides another layer of liability protection related solely to this agreement alone through our liability insurance policy by issuing additional insured status through a certificate of insurance to the landowner and LCO. Certain limitations apply and the LCO should also consider its own insurance insurance policy - ask us for further information.
  • The LCO oversees stewardship and management of the climbing resources, to the extent desired by the landowner.
  • The public or private landowner has active partners in managing the climbing resources, while reducing their exposure to liability.

Partnering with local climbing communities and landowners, the Access Fund has successfully protected and opened the following climbing areas:

2012 Auburn Quarry Concession Contract, California
Effective through 2013, this agreement lifts the 10-year climbing ban and outlines responsibilities for the local climbing community to manage parking, trails, and access to the climbing areas in Auburn Quarry outside Sacramento, CA. The land is held by the US Bureau of Reclamation and managed by California State Parks and co-held by the Climbing Resource Advocates for Greater Sacramento (CRAGS) and Access Fund. Access Fund provides additional insured status to CRAGS, the Bureau, and State Parks.
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2012 Bubba City Recreational and Parking Lot Easement Agreement, West Virginia 
This agreement is between the landowner Wild Rock West Virginia, Access Fund, and New River Alliance of Climbers (NRAC). The agreement provides parking and trail access across private land to 3 access points along the Bubba City cliff line of the New River Gorge, WV. The agreement is effective through 2017 and renewable for additional 5-year terms. Access Fund provides additional insured status to NRAC and Wild Rock.
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2006 Oak Flat and Queen Creek Canyon Recreational Use License, Arizona
AF secured a recreational use license for climbing access to the Atlantis, Pond, and Oak Flat parcels from Resolution Copper Company in 2006, renewing the license and insurance annually through 2011. The Queen Creek Coalition renegotiated the license in 2012. Under the threat of a massive copper mining proposal, the Access Fund continues to dedicate resources towards protecting climbing access at these central Arizona areas.
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This information is provided as general background and the Access Fund is not providing legal advice. Laws vary from state to state and change regularly. Interested parties should always seek qualified legal counsel by consulting their own private counsel in their local jurisdiction.