04/05/2021

LCO Pro: Get Support from Your Board and Access Fund

Categories: LCO 101

A local climbing organization’s (LCO) work to keep climbing areas open and stewarded takes time and resources, including a supportive community, an army of volunteers, and money. Although there’s a strong and deep tradition of volunteerism in the climbing advocacy community, fundraising and volunteer burnout are serious challenges to keeping an LCO going. More and more, LCOs are asking themselves whether it’s time to “go pro” with paid staff, but many struggle with whether, when, and how to take the leap.

In this final installment of the four-part LCO Pro series, we dig into how paid LCO staff get the support and guidance they need from their Board of Directors and Access Fund. As an LCO leader, your board is your go-to support team, and Access Fund is always ready to provide guidance, support, and connection to the national network of local climbing advocacy organizations.

Andrea Hassler

Executive Director, Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC)

How do you work effectively with your board and the wider climbing community?
We have board representatives from each of the three states in which we operate: Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. Our board members have a wealth of background and experience, including gym and small business owners, lawyers, contractors, and long time SCC volunteers. Most of our board members play a role in a volunteer capacity at one point or another.

How do you partner with Access Fund in your work?
In so many ways…. Access Fund has supported land acquisitions through the Climbing Conservation Loan Program. They have also sent Conservation Teams to work on projects in the region, which has increased our capacity to tackle large projects. On a regular basis, our regional director (Zachary) makes himself available any time I have a question, and he has the knowledge and resources to point me in the right direction.

Anything else you want the LCO community to know?
The complexities of LCO work begin to really unfold with paid staff, because we are the go-to resource for our climbers, community partners, and land managers. We have to constantly put out little fires while chipping away at larger initiatives like fundraising to pay back a loan or implementing large-scale stewardship projects.


Mike Reardon

Executive Director, Carolina Climbers Coalition (CCC)

How do you work effectively with your board and the wider climbing community?
I try to find the talents of individuals on our board and in our community and help pull those out to serve the greater mission of the CCC. For example, if someone in our community is a great designer, I work with them to help create a design for one of our initiatives. Engaging talented or experienced folks in our community has not only saved us a great deal of funds, it also has helped broaden our reach of advocates working for our cause.

How do you partner with Access Fund in your work?
Access Fund has been critical for us in many ways. Southeast Director Zachary Lesch-Huie has been our go-to for policy advice and operational support. The Conservation Team, led by Ty Tyler, has served many of our climbing areas and has helped boost our stewardship efforts. The Climbing Conservation Loan Program has given us loans to purchase climbing areas like Laurel Knob, Rumbling Bald, Buckeye Knob, and Hidden Valley, enabling us to open them up to public climbing.

Anything else you want our LCO community to know?
It’s a great honor to serve this community of Carolina climbers and even better to know that we have national support from other LCOs and Access Fund. When we are brought together to share experience, the future of public access and public service to our climbing areas feels bright. Thanks, Access Fund!

Erik Kloeker

Property Manager, Muir Valley

How do you work effectively with your board and the wider climbing community?
Working effectively with my board requires open lines of communication and compromise. I'll offer up a range of solutions and outline the advantages and disadvantages of each, then leave it to the board to make the call. A property manager is the eyes, the ears, and the arms of an organization, but not always the brain! I use my discretion to make everyday decisions, but major decisions are discussed and decided by the board. I appreciate that the board values my opinion; we work well together knowing everyone ultimately wants what is best for the climbing area and the community. I've also had the great pleasure of working with other LCOs like the Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition and staying involved in the community by donating time to projects outside of my organization.

How do you partner with Access Fund in your work?
One of our major initiatives with Access Fund was bringing sustainability to our waste management. Access Fund provided grants to help pay for three vault toilets on the valley floor. Access Fund also helped fund road improvements and played a major role in securing "forever access" of Muir Valley in 2005, when they helped the previous landowners transfer Muir Valley to the Friends of Muir Valley.

Anything else you want the LCO community to know?
We love Access Fund, and appreciate their efforts to help LCOs share ideas and support one another. The results are a stronger climbing community as a whole and more places to climb!

Lauren Heerschap

Former Executive Director, Central Wyoming Climbers’ Alliance (WyoClimbers)

How do you work effectively with your board and the wider climbing community?
The WyoClimbers board consists of 11 individuals across a broad spectrum of the Lander climbing community. Due to our longevity, we have a long history that we can pull from and a strong presence in our community. Our board meets every 4-5 weeks, and we have sub-committees that also meet every 4-5 weeks (Education Outreach/Festival, Access & Advocacy, and Executive Committee). As Executive Director, I attend not only the board meetings but all of the sub-committee meetings, which are really where the action happens. We use our committees to work on details and to get things done through a combination of actual committee member volunteer work, plus my work. The community of Lander is also super supportive of climbers due to our long-standing presence and the Climbers’ Festival, which brings a lot of revenue and recognition to the town. There are a lot of Lander businesses run and owned by climbers, and many climbers serve important roles in the community through their jobs or presence on other boards.

How do you partner with Access Fund in your work?
WyoClimbers has received Access Fund grant support for various projects related to the Aspen Glades parking, camping area, and toilet. We have also partnered with Access Fund during the International Climbers’ Festival for the annual volunteer day, where visiting and local climbers give a solid morning or full day of work improving our shared climbing and public lands resources in collaboration with our land managers. Forest Service personnel, Access Fund teams, and climbers work side by side on these days to get a surprising amount of work accomplished in a small amount of time. These collaborations are a win-win for everyone and a fantastic model of shared stewardship of our climbing resources with each other and our land managers. Access Fund is also helping us with our economic impact survey to measure climbers’ contribution to the local economy.

Kate Beezley

Executive Director, Boulder Climbing Community (BCC)

How do you work effectively with your board and the wider climbing community?
As an organization, we are relationship centeredwe build partnerships with our community, which includes the board. We also get input from the community from regular communication. We conduct interviews with community members and supporters, conduct surveys when needed, and hold town hall meetings to get input so that we know what the community needs and can execute most effectively.

How do you partner with Access Fund in your work?
Access Fund is one of our longest standing partners. They were instrumental in starting our trails program. They provide support every year, via grants, to our trails program. They are also part of our community, as their national headquarters is local to our area.

Anything else you want our LCO community to know?
Let the work tell the story. There are a million things you can be doing as a LCO, but when in doubt, prioritize stewardship work. Every foot of trail, every inch of graffiti scrubbed, wag bag distributed, or bolt replaced is a win, and the community will notice it and support the LCO!