October 2018 Climbing Community Meeting Summary

people engaged in a meeting in a park visitor center
Climbers work with park staff to address issues at a climbing community meeting.

NPS photo

On October 27, 2018, the National Park Service hosted a climbing community meeting at the Canyon Rim Visitor Center as part of the park’s commitment to hold semi-annual public meetings with the climbing community. The event was attended by 14 members of the public. The park reviewed work done in 2018; described work planned for 2019; outlined the process for updating the current Climbing Management Plan; and reviewed the elements of the current Climbing Management Plan. The information below is a summary of the meeting.

2018 accomplishments
  • (Not) Work Week at Butcher Branch and Tattoo Wall
  • Installation of backboards at popular climbing areas
  • Two public meetings
  • Outreach at Craggin’ Classic
  • Climbing included in “Get Active in the Park” programming
  • Bulletin board installation and content revisions
  • Website revisions
  • Issued permits
  • Provided grant support
  • Conducted and analyzed plant surveys for 2019 (Not) Work Week project
  • Ordered plant surveys for 2020 (Not) Work Week project

2019 planned work
  • (Not) Work Week at Kaymoor climbing area
  • Bridge Buttress project
  • Construct parking area and vault toilet at Short Creek
  • Repair Junkyard steps
  • Two public meetings
  • Outreach at Craggin’ Classic
  • Climbing included in “Get Active in the Park” programming
  • Canyon Rim Visitor Center exhibit planning
  • Website revisions
  • Issue permits
  • General Agreement w/ NRAC
  • Conducted and analyzed plant surveys for 2020 (Not) Work Week project
  • Ordered plant surveys for 2021 (Not) Work Week project

Climbing Management Plan Revision timeline
  • Scoping (Internal and Public): December 2018-June 2019
    • Collect input and ideas, identify issues and concerns that need to be considered and analyzed
    • Includes public scoping meeting (March 2019)
  • Develop and Evaluate Alternatives: April 2019-July 2019
    • Develop alternative approaches to the project based on scoping input, analyze potential impacts to resources
  • Public Comment on Draft Plan: July 2019– Aug 2019
    • Second formal opportunity for public input
  • Respond to Comments, Revise Plan: Aug 2019-Oct 2019
  • Publish Final Plan: Nov 2019
  • Implement the Plan: Late 2019 & annual review

Climbing Management Plan Discussion
These comments were in response to the elements of the Climbing Management Plan.
  • Education: Attendees stated that education is the best tool for addressing issues and suggested methods for getting stewardship message to climbers including targeting gym climbers, trail work events, working with NRAC, Access Fund and Summersville Lake for consistent messaging, and putting messaging out on social media.
  • Outreach: Attendees stated that the semi-annual meetings and NPS presence at climbing events works well. Attendees suggested targeting gyms and messaging through social media were again mentioned. Attendees stated that a group use schedule may not be needed as commercial groups tend to work out scheduling on their own.
  • Partnering: Attendees stated that the park and NRAC should formalize an agreement.
  • Species of Special Concern: Attendees suggested that the park put information about iNaturalist on the bulletin boards so that climbers can post sightings of species of special concern, such as green salamanders. A question was asked about the status of flying squirrels in the park.
    • Answer: There are flying squirrels in the park but they are not federally or state listed; there potentially may be a recovered species (northern flying squirrel [Glaucomy sabrinus fuscus]) in the park but it has never been documented.
  • Peregrine Falcons: Attendees questioned whether there was still a need for closures or use reductions from Endless Wall to Beauty Mountain and if this could be removed in the revised plan. More information was requested on time of year that the closures might be in place.
    • Answer: The normal nesting time is in the spring so potential closures could be mid-spring to very early summer.
  • Group Use: Attendees stated that an annual commercial use meeting would be beneficial in early spring or late fall and suggested these agenda items for consideration: reporting data annually vs. monthly, clarification on protocols, clarification on area designations/boundaries of different climbing areas and what sections of cliff are inside or outside of the park (and what rules apply outside of the park). Attendees made suggestions to update the language about certification to reflect current AMGA language and to open the Short Creek area to larger groups and harden trails.
  • Climber Data: Attendees stated climbers are interested in helping collect data, either through a crag ambassador program or other methods. Eastern Kentucky University conducted an economic impact survey of climbers this summer and the results should be available in January. NRAC and the Access Fund may be able to help with a VISTA to help gather data or work on the crag ambassador program.
  • Access Trails and Ladders: Attendees stated signage could be improved.
  • Fixed Anchors: Attendees stated that climbers would like to be included in the review of applications for new sport routes, as required by the climbing management plan (which states the park will hold semi-annual meetings for input on installation and replacement of fixed protection).
  • Chalk Use: Attendees stated that most of the chalk gets cleaned by nature and this is an issue only where the rock doesn’t get much rain and that the minimal use ethic should be encouraged. Attendees stated that this was an issue in 2005 when the plan was put in place as color chalk was increasing in popularity, but that has since subsided.

General comments
  • There will be a women’s climbing event on the first weekend in June where they typically complete a volunteer project. Other events have been able to produce about 120 volunteers for about 4 hours of work. The NPS will look for a suitable volunteer project for this event.
  • Rocks are still being thrown at Endless Wall, although not as much since the signs were installed. It was suggested that the NPS add language to bulletin boards. The park reminded climbers to call 911.
  • Climbers want to help with search and rescue, but don’t necessarily want to join a VFD. How can climbers be a resource to help the teams get to injured climbers faster? The NPS will refer this matter to the Chief Ranger for further consideration.

Next Steps
The park will review the comments received and may follow up with attendees for more information or action. The park will begin internal scoping on the revisions to the climbing management plan in December 2018. The spring semi-annual public meeting and public scoping on plan revisions will be held in spring 2019.

Last updated: January 22, 2020

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