Access Fund Awards Over $30,000 in Climbing Conservation Grants

Access Fund is pleased to announce that it has awarded more than $30,000 from its Climbing Conservation Grant Program to support nine worthy projects across the country. Access Fund will award up to $60,000 in total this year to support local climbing communities with projects that preserve or enhance climbing in the United States. Since 1991, Access Fund has awarded more than $1.3 million for 401 local projects in 41 states.

The Sugarloaf in Winona, Minnesota, ancestral lands of Sauk and Meskwaki, Wahpeton, Ho-Chunk (Winnebago), Očhéthi Šakówiŋ | © Rich Anthony

Carolina Climbers Coalition: Moore’s Wall Parking Lot Expansion
The Carolina Climbers Coalition was awarded funding to expand Moore’s Wall parking lot to 30 legal spaces, doubling its current size and reducing the impact of illegally parked cars. This world-class quartzite climbing area is home to 200-plus routes and is an easy day-trip from North Carolina’s three largest metropolitan areas, making it extremely popular. On busy weekends and holidays, the Moore’s Wall parking lot can exceed its legal capacity by more than four times. Illegally parked cars negatively impact neighbors and roadside flora, as well as create erosion problems. Grant funding will go toward the machines needed to conduct the work, as well as the rock for the parking lot.

Climbing Resource Access Group of Vermont (CRAG-VT): Bolton Dome Acquisition
CRAG-VT was awarded funding to finalize its acquisition of the Bolton Dome climbing area and open new climbing on the property. Bolton Dome was acquired in 2018 and opened to climbing in the spring of 2019. This project conserved the single largest schist cliff line in northwest Vermont. In the first year after reopening, climber visits demonstrated that the cliff has become one of northwest Vermont’s most popular climbing destinations. More than 30 additional routes have been added to the cliff since opening, and grant funds will further expand options for climbers.

Eastern Kentucky University: The Economic Impact and LNT Behaviors of Wyoming’s Lander Region Climbing Community
Grant funds have been awarded to Eastern Kentucky University, which is collaborating with the Central Wyoming Climbers’ Alliance to conduct an economic-impact study that examines climber expenditure patterns in the region and estimates their impact on the local economy. This survey will also include a measure of climbers’ Leave No Trace knowledge and behaviors to assess environmental impact on local crags and necessary interventions. The study will be conducted entirely online. The results will create a useful advocacy tool to illustrate the benefits that climbing brings to the Lander community, while also helping local climbing organizations minimize the sport’s negative impacts. Grant funds will be used for the software and staff time needed to complete the survey.

Inclusive Community Consulting: COVID-19 Climate Evaluation Research Project
A grant has been awarded to Inclusive Community Consulting to conduct critical research on how uranium mining has affected the Navajo people. Access Fund is working with the Navajo Nation to protect the Bears Ears landscape, and this research grant will deepen Access Fund’s relationship with the Navajo Nation, in hopes of formalizing sustainable and respectful climbing opportunities on Navajo sovereign land. From 1944 to 1986, nearly 30 million tons of uranium ore were extracted from Navajo lands, leaving a radioactive legacy of uranium that is contaminating Navajo homes and water sources. The potential health effects of this contamination include higher risk of lung cancer, bone cancer, impaired kidney function, and, according to a recent Harvard study, COVID-19 mortality. Having quantitative data will help tribal leaders request funds and find specific medical assistance and treatments, provide education on the effects of uranium, and secure rapid-relief assistance for those most in need. This data will also be used to urge the U.S. government and private companies who own these mines to clean up the uranium, while ensuring safe, temporary shelter. Funding was granted for staff time, travel, outreach, education materials, and sampling expenses.

Mahoosuc Land Trust: Tumbledown Dick Forever Project
Mahoosuc Land Trust was awarded funding to help cover acquisition costs for Tumbledown Dick, one of southern Maine’s best single-pitch rock-climbing areas. This project will provide permanent access to the climbing area, which has a history of access restrictions imposed by the prior landowner. The grant will help cover staff time to rally the local climbing community to care for the property and engage the broader local community to contribute to acquiring this land for permanent conservation.

Rachel Nelson/Friends of Indian Creek: Camping Inventory and Visitor-Use Survey
Friends of Indian Creek was awarded funding to help inventory camping and study visitor use at Indian Creek, an internationally recognized climbing destination within Bears Ears National Monument. Overall use in the Indian Creek area (climbers and otherwise) is estimated at more than 180,000 people per year, and use is expected to increase, according to the 2019 Bears Ears National Monument Management Plan. This project will inventory the current location and extent of dispersed camping sites (Phase 1) and may be part of a larger study (Phase 2/3) that will include baseline data on visitor-use amount and type, as well as the impacts of established climber social trails, staging areas, and parking areas. Grant funds will cover field work, equipment expenses, and supplies, as well as the work to create maps and analyze data for the initial phase of the larger research project.

Recreation Alliance of Winona: Sugarloaf Wayfinding and Interpretive Development
The Recreation Alliance of Winona was awarded grant funding for wayfinding and interpretive signs at the Sugarloaf, one of Minnesota’s most popular beginner/intermediate sport climbing areas. The unique tower formation is located 600 feet above town, with climbing routes offering the only access to the top. The area is popular for climbers practicing multipitch climbing transitions and anchor-building skills on ground-level practice anchors. However, the area lacks recreation infrastructure, including interpretive, educational, or wayfinding signs. Grant funds will be used to install signs that show hikers and climbers what the river valley looked like hundreds of years ago, as well as wayfinding signs to aid in the battle against erosion by keeping users on trail. Kiosks will also be installed to solidify the area as a city park, discouraging unmanaged partying, graffiti, and vandalism.

San Luis Valley Climbers Alliance: Private Land Easement
The San Luis Valley Climbers Alliance was awarded grant funding to permanently protect climbing access to one of the area’s best sport climbing venues, which is located on private property in southern Colorado. The local climbing community has been lucky that the current landowners have fully supported climbing development, despite the crag’s popularity and close proximity to residences. Over 30 high-quality routes between 5.10 and 5.13+ have been developed on the basalt dike, which is uncharacteristically steep for the San Luis Valley. The owner plans to put his land up for sale in the upcoming years, but wants to work with Access Fund and San Luis Valley Climbers Alliance to establish a recreational easement to permanently protect climbing access. Grant funding will go toward insurance, surveying costs, title costs, and parking lot construction.

Western Massachusetts Climbers’ Coalition: Parking Lot Drainage at Hanging Mountain
Western Massachusetts Climbers’ Coalition (WMCC) was awarded funding to improve the parking area at the newly acquired Hanging Mountain in western Massachusetts. The crag is easily accessible to the New York City, Boston, and Hartford climbing communities, as well as some areas of Canada. In early spring, WMCC paid to have a long driveway and small parking lot put in. The lot currently holds 10 cars, and WMCC is working on increasing that capacity. However, professional drainage structures must be installed to prevent the hill above from washing into the parking lot. Funding will go toward hiring a professional team to dig the drainage.

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