Episode #46

Credit Photo Courtesy of:
Brian Poon


About this Episode

Though James Maples, who holds a doctorate in sociology, isn’t a climber himself, he’s still an integral member of the climbing community. As an associate professor at Eastern Kentucky University and director of the EKU Division for Regional Economic Assessment and Modeling, Maples focuses on Appalachian studies and economic impact research. This combination of interests was the impetus for James to conduct his first study in 2015 on the economic impact of climbing at Red River Gorge, Kentucky. Since, Maples has conducted multiple economic impact studies at the Red and elsewhere. He has also written numerous articles and a book on climbers and the regional economic impact of climbing at crags and boulder fields across the country.

Maples has a wealth of knowledge, which he shares generously in this conversation that touches on his book, the history of climbing advocacy in rural Appalachia, and his work to support the climbing community around the country.

4:38- Red River Gorge history preamble
12:49- James’ intro
16:50- James’ connection to Access Fund
21:23- James’ new book
34:04- Red River dam project proposal
38:21- Early advocacy days - Cumberland Climbers
47:15- 1994 bolting ban
56:28- Kentucky Heartwood lawsuit
59:20- The archaeological dig at the Military Wall
1:12:09- Economic impacts studies
1:25:36- Management actions from the economic studies
1:29:03- Potential downsides to tourism-based economies
1:34:42- Climber-specific Leave No Trace study

Rock Climbing in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge book: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57691814-rock-climbing-in-kentucky-s-red-river-gorge

Economic Impact Study in the Red River Gorge YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxzmyFkY5hM

“Do Climbers Leave No Trace” YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTFXBlCz3V4&t=197s

James’ email: [email protected]