LCO Pro: The New Crop of LCO Professionals

Categories: LCO 101

If you’ve labored in the trenches as a volunteer for your local climbing organization (LCO), getting paid to work for an LCO may seem like a dream job, or a way to take your LCO’s work to the next level. Although the majority of LCOs are volunteer-run, a growing number are making the leap to paid staff to support larger operations and make their organizations more effective and sustainable. It’s not easy, but the move is paying off for these groups, their climbing areas, and the communities they serve.

In this new LCO Pro series, we’ll be interviewing LCO professionals from all over the U.S. to give you an honest look at the reality of their day-to-day jobs, provide insight into the transition from volunteers to paid staff, and learn what drives them to keep coming back every day to care for their local crags.

Meet the LCO Pros

In this first installment, we’ll introduce you to these leaders as they share how they got started in their roles and what their goals are for their positions.

Andrea Hassler, Executive Director, Southeastern Climbers Coalition

“I started in May 2019, so I’m about to celebrate my one-year jobversary. Some of my original goals were to work on our organizational structure for maximum efficiency and transferability, increase the capacity of our stewardship program and corporate partnerships, and reduce our Denny Cove loan debt by half. Currently, I’m focusing on our financial organization and strategic planning. This project will take a while, but we are beginning our baseline resource inventory field assessments this summer. With the help of our local university’s GIS lab, we will produce maps to prioritize our stewardship and acquisition efforts, driving a strategic plan for future conservation projects. We expect to make the final payment on our Denny Cove loan in January 2021.”

Kate Beezley, Executive Director, Boulder Climbing Community

"I have been in this role almost two years. My goal has been to increase our community. We have done excellent work on the stewardship side, and now we’re working to grow the sense of identity and community that ultimately creates buy-in to the stewardship work. We’ve also been working to provide more organization for our volunteers. We have, if the predictions are correct, close to 100,000 people climbing along the Front Range on any given day. That is a lot of climber impacts to manage, but first we have to get the community bought-in and involved."

Mike Reardon, Executive Director, Carolina Climbers Coalition

“I have been the executive director of the Carolina Climbers Coalition since February 2019. My major role is to bolster our mission as a nonprofit and work with our amazing board of directors. My daily work includes managing stewardship projects, supporting climbing area representatives, fundraising and grant writing, community building, and attending meetings that support access and stewardship.”

Lauren Heerschap, Executive Director, Central Wyoming Climbers’ Alliance

“I’ve been in this role for a little over two years. My goals for the position include: achieving financial stability and sustainability, and formalizing relationships with our land managers through climbing management plans and recreation master plans. I’m also working to strengthen community partnerships through the festival and other outreach programs, as well as support existing youth climbing programs and expand opportunities to the entire county, including the Wind River Reservation. We’re also focused on maintaining and improving access to climbing resources that are at risk or facing indiscriminate closures, as well as providing opportunities for the local climbing community to celebrate climbing together through film events and other gatherings.”

Erik Kloeker, Property Manager, Muir Valley

“I have been the property manager at Muir Valley since 2018. I had big shoes to fill, as the founders—Rick and Liz Weber—are both engineers and very detail-oriented, setting a high standard to live up to. With the help of volunteers, the Webers dedicated a lot of time to the preserve. They made it their full-time job to turn the area into a friendly and inviting place to climb, and they succeeded in just that. My goals as property manager are to continue their vision while making improvements and building on the legacy they’ve left.”

Julia Geisler, Executive Director, Salt Lake Climbers Alliance

“I've been the executive director of SLCA for eight years. My big goal is to ensure SLCA’s ‘why statement’ continues to ring true: ‘We believe in the power of climbing to enrich lives. We ensure the community can continue to go climbing.’ I want to lead the SLCA into a sustainable future, in which the community is inspired to protect the places they love to climb. We’ve set some more specific goals that we aim to hit by 2025, including: complete an inventory of climbing areas within our geographic scope, with associated stewardship plans; establish professional trail and anchor replacement crews; and do impactful programming to encourage responsible use and behavior at the crag.”

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