Posts Tagged ‘Climbing Access’

The Access Fund just sent out a notice to all of its members regarding the The National Park Service and an updated draft of its wilderness management policies. Basically, climbing areas in the U.S. like Yosemite, Zion, Black Canyon, and Rocky Mountain national parks—would be governed by this new policy. The Access Fund is soliciting input from the climbing community to inform its policy position on this critically important issue. Check out the summary of the major take-aways of the proposed NPS policy (provided by The Access Fund), the history of the fixed anchor debate, and the Access Fund’s advocacy strategy below —then take the survey!

Important Elements of the Proposed Policy

The proposed policy acknowledges that “climbing is in many cases a legitimate and appropriate use of wilderness” and that each park with significant wilderness climbing activities must prepare a climbing management plan. However, the policy calls for climbing to be restricted or prohibited if unacceptable impacts to wilderness resources or character occur.

This proposed policy recognizes that the occasional placement of a fixed anchor for belay, rappel, or protection purposes does not necessarily impair wilderness, but it requires prior authorization for the placement of new fixed anchors (replacements or removals may also require park approval). The requirements and process for authorization are to be laid out in each park’s climbing management plan. The practical outcome of this proposed policy is that climbers would need a permit or some other authorization prior to the hand placement of new bolts in any national park wilderness area. Most national parks currently do not require such prior-approval.

Background on the Issue

It is important to view this proposed policy in the context of the last 20+ years of advocacy and uncertainty surrounding technical climbing in federal wilderness areas. In the mid 1990’s, the future of fixed anchors in federal wilderness was uncertain—an outright ban seemed imminent on US Forest Service managed wilderness. Some user groups, notably mountain bikers, have been categorically banned from wilderness areas. In light of this, the NPS’s acknowledgement that “climbing is in many cases a legitimate and appropriate use of wilderness” and that the “occasional placement of a fixed anchor” is not incompatible with wilderness is significant. The Access Fund believes that some level of fixed anchor use must be allowed wherever climbing is allowed, and that the appropriate level of use should be established on an area-by-area basis. The government has authority under the Wilderness Act to permit fixed anchors in wilderness, and this use should be permitted as climbing is one of the unique recreation opportunities wilderness is intended to provide. The continued use of fixed anchors, if properly managed, will not degrade wilderness resources and values.

Please take a moment to review a background document the Access Fund has prepared for the benefit of the climbing community, which includes our general position statement on fixed anchors. You may also read the text of the draft Director’s Order. If you need to brush up on your understanding of the Wilderness Act, you can do so here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilderness_Act. Advocacy Strategy

The Access Fund recently met with a range of climbing advocates (including the American Alpine Club and the American Mountain Guides Association) and members of the outdoor industry to consider the current NPS proposal and develop a joint position statement with recommended modifications to the draft policy. An important part of our advocacy on this issue will be shaped by the specific opinions and ideas from individuals in the climbing community. Please take a few minutes to let us know your thoughts through the following set of survey questions. If you would prefer to share your thoughts in a letter, feel free to send an email to comments@accessfund.org. We will use the comments we receive to inform our final policy position and recommended changes to the Director’s Order. We will issue an action alert in mid-February, which will include an Access Fund position statement and an easy letter-writing tool for climbers to submit their own comments directly to the NPS. Thank you for your time and comments.

Chimney Rock has long been the major attraction drawing people to Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure every summer. However it was on private property for the last century. In July 2006 the owners (the Morse family) decided to list the Park for sale. less than a year later, NC Governor Mike Easley announced that the State of NC, with the help of several partners (The Nature Conservancy, the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, the Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina and others), had purchased Chimney Rock Park for $24 million to be the centerpiece of a new state park under development in Hickory Nut Gorge.

Today, A draft master plan for Chimney Rock State Park will be presented online for public review. Public comments on the plan will be accepted through Dec. 13, according to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation. Comments will be considered for the final master plan expected to be completed in early 2011.

A state park’s master plan is essentially a blueprint for long-term development of facilities and recreation opportunities and a guide for protection of natural resources. Three initial design alternatives were publicly presented earlier this year by Greenways Inc., a Durham-based environmental planning and landscape architecture firm responsible for completing the master plan. The alternatives differed primarily in the extent of development proposed.

The final draft master plan can be viewed at www.greenways.com/chimneyrock starting today.Written comments may be submitted by using an online comment sheet or by mail.

This appears to be a win for outdoor recreation in general, but a bit of a disappointment for climbers. The existing climbing area on Rumbling Bald will be preserved – with improved parking and access; new mountain bike trails will be created; and overnight primitive camping areas for backpacking will be created. However there are several areas with 100+ years of climbing history representing hundreds of established routes that will not be opened up to the climbing community under this plan. This new park could have been a true climbing destination area, but instead the state is maintaining the status quo.