Access Fund Hosts Southeast Regional Access Summit

posted by dpm on 03/31/2013


Most large climbing areas in the U.S. have their own local climbing organization (LCO). In the past, these grassroots LCO's worked within a very focused region on fairly simple tasks such as organizing trail days, trash pick-ups, or raising money to maintain their local climbing area. As climbing has grown, so has the landscape that LCO's operate within. Small, independent grassroots climber's coalitions can now be faced with very large challenges like dealing with land managers to maintain access or even acquiring land like the Red River Gorge Climber's Coalition did with their purchase of the Pendergrass-Murray Recreation Preserve, which is now arguably the most popular sport climbing destination in the East.   

On a national level, the Access Fund represents climbers to keep areas open and secure. One of their main goals is also to provide support to LCO's throughout the country. Zachary Lesch-Huie, the Access Fund's Southeastern Regional Coordinator, recognized the importance of bringing together all of the LCO's that operate within his region. He organized a summit that took place last weekend at the Red River Gorge, Kentucky.

Zachary Lesch-Huie, the Access Fund's Southeast Regional Coordinator, was very excited about the summit he organized. Kenny Parker of the New River Alliance of Climbers looks less amused. All photos: Access Fund


Dr. Bob Matheny, owner of Torrent Falls, graciously allowed the use of his property and cabin for the meeting. Representatives from all over the Southeast turned out to discuss recent successes, challenges, and the future of Southeastern climbing. Present at the Summit were Access Fund employees: Zachary Lesch-Huie (Southeast Regional Coordinator), Joe Sambataro (Access Director), and Robert Dennis Pascoe (Policy Director). Representatives were present from The Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition, Friends of Muir Valley, Southeastern Climbers Coalition, East Tennessee Climbers Coalition,  Boone Climbers Coalition, Carolina Climbers Coalition, and the New River Alliance of Climbers.

Joe Sambataro, the Access Fund's Access Director, discusses the challenges of land ownership, including access easements and land acquisition by LCO's.  


Those in attendance gained a great deal of insight through Access Fund presentations by Joe Sambataro and R.D. Pascoe. Joe presented the LCO's with a logical set of steps to follow for maintaining, or gaining, access to climbing areas on private lands. R.D. presented on the topics of public land management, fixed anchors, and our nation's fear of liability and how that affects access to climbing areas. At all points in the discussion, LCO representatives were able to chime in and discuss how these larger issues were affecting their local climbing areas. The afternoon was spent hearing from each LCO and swapping stories of successes, challenges, and effective solutions.  

Access Fund Policy Director R.D. Pascoe discusses the current closures of all climbing areas in Hawaii located within the boundaries of the Department of Land and Natural Resources. Read an article about the issue on the AF website here, and another one here that discusses a more recent hurdle


Overall, it's remarkable to see how much has been accomplished already by Southeastern climbers. LCO's across the Southeast have worked effectively with National and State Parks, maintained clean and accessible crags through trail days, worked to replace aging fixed hardware, raised money through organized events, and secured access through easements and acquisition, oftentimes made possible by the Access Fund. Perhaps the most valuable aspect of the summit was attaching faces to the people behind the emails and phone calls that keep our climbing areas safe and open. Now, when faced with challenges, LCO's will be more likely to communicate with each other for guidance and advice from those that have been down a similar path. The Access Fund stressed their willingness to provide support to each LCO through education, legal advice, financial loans, or strategies for success. But the Access Fund and local organizations only represent a fraction of what is necessary for continued success. Positive action is the responsibility of every person that enjoys our climbing resources and thanks to the support of the tight-knit Southeastern community; the future looks bright for Southeastern climbing.

After the meeting, the climbs of Torrent Falls were just a few feet away. Yasmeen Fowler of the RRGCC and Whitney Boland of the SCC fire off Big Money Grip (5.12b) and Steelworker (5.12c), two of the Red's best routes.

If you're not a member of the Access Fund already, please provide your support by becoming a member. Many people work hard to keep our climbing areas safe, clean, open, and accessible. Learn more about the Access Fund and become a member at their website.

The 2013 Access Fund Southeast Regional Access Summit.