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Future of Climbing in the Arches National Park - Press Release
Submitted By: John McNamee on Mar 22, 2007

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Arches National Park Seeking Input for Climbing Management Plan

Arches National Park is soliciting public comments regarding the development of a Climbing Management Plan. In 2006, unusual climbing activities raised public interest and concern about issues associated with technical rock climbing.

"We've decided to take a new look at our climbing policies, "commented Laura Joss, superintendent of the park. “We’re asking for suggestions from the public about options regarding climbing activities in the park, as well as issues to be addressed.”

Issues identified to date include effects on natural and cultural resources, use of fixed hardware, designating climbing routes, development of approach trails, rock alteration, vegetation alteration, visual impacts and the effects of climbing on visitor safety and experiences.

A climbing management planning effort will consider a full range of alternatives to protect resources, visitors and visitor experience. This plan will comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), and will seek to involve as many individuals as possible who have an interest in or concerns about climbing activities at Arches.

The scoping phase of the process will continue until May 4, 2007. After that an environmental assessment will be developed, which will be available for public review and comment.

Scoping comments may be submitted over the internet at parkplanning.nps.gov or by mail to Superintendent, Arches National Park, PO Box 907, Moab, UT 84532.

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Comments on Future of Climbing in the Arches National Park - Press Release Add Comment
Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated May 4, 2007
By Sam Lightner, Jr.
From: Lander, WY
Mar 28, 2007
OK Gang, Please Read this:

As we all know, a much-publicized climb in the spring of 2006 raised public interest and concern about rock climbing in Arches National Park. Prior to this event, Arches managers had limited contact with climbers and felt no real need for official policies. However, an overwhelming number of letters calling for an outright ban on climbing forced the Park to impose serious restrictions on our sport. Since then, a group of local climbers and the Access Fund have been working with the Park to rehabilitate a good relationship between us.

The Park Service has decided it is time to make an official Climbing Management Plan. This plan could be great for us, or it could be our demise: the key is how we help them make the plan. They are currently seeking input into how the plan should be. If the events of Spring, 2006 were any indicator, an enormous number of letters from environmental groups and anti-climbers will be sent to the Park Service calling for a ban or some draconian restrictions. However, The Park managers will be willing to look at all sides. As a matter of fact, they have shown local climbers that they are willing to work with climbers provided they see a positive result.

That said, it is up to us to send positive letters about the sport. If you have ever climbed in Arches, you should tell them so and tell them you enjoyed it. If you ever want to climb on the unique towers in Arches, you should tell them so. We need to show them that we really do care about the policies and that we want to be able to climb in Arches. We also need to point out that the outright ban on fixed anchors prevents the ascent of the majority of spires and towers (no pitons = no aid). I think most of us would admit we don’t feel a need to climb up on the actual arches, so we should state that. Above all, we need to write positive letters endorsing climbing as a legitimate form of recreation in Arches National Park.

Its easy to write them a short note. If you want to do it online, go to this website: parkplanning.nps.gov
At the bottom of the page, pull down the menu and go to “Arches NP”, then click “Plans/Documents open for comment”. The top one is about climbing management. Click
“Comment on Document” and write your small letter. That’s it.
If you want to write out a paper letter, you can send it here:
Superintendent
Arches National Park
PO Box 907
Moab, UT 84532

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. The BLM asked for this same sort of input a couple years ago in reference to Indian Creek. They truly wanted to know who the users were, but in the initial round of discussions comments they only received around 30 letters from climbers… they got over 600 from 4wheelers. That’s pathetic… lets not let it happen here. (FYI-climbers got on it in the second round and we were factored in, showing that your opinions can make a difference).

2. Arches National Park is grouped with 3 other Parks in its administration. Many of the rules that govern one Park eventually fall into the rule book for the one next door. In this case, Canyonlands, an area containing more Windgate and Cutler towers than the rest of the world combined, is next door. A draconian rule in Arches could eventually lead to one in Canyonlands. If that’s the case, it would look like a precedent for other Parks in the country to follow. The trickle-down effect could be seen with the BLM and Forest Service. In other words, we could lose a lot more climbing resources than the 76,000 acres and 100’s of towers that is Arches.

3. Writing a letter to the Park will take less time than we spend blurbing in online forums.

4. They really do want to hear from us. I know this for a fact, and I know they will listen to positive words we have to say.

5. If we don’t ask for permission, we can’t get mad when we don’t get it.


For additional information contact jason@accessfund.org.


Thanks,
Sam Lightner, Jr.
Arches Task Force Coordinator
Access Fund Board Member
ASCA Eastern Utah Coordinator
By Tony B
From: Around Boulder, CO
Mar 28, 2007
It would be great if people could post their letters here (a copy, of course) for others to read and help to draft their own responses. Perhaps the Access Fund has an official position to share as well.

Sam, can you kick off the effort by posting your own letter and I'll use that as a start for mine and respond by posting my own within 24 hours.

Others?
By rob bauer
From: Golden, CO
Mar 28, 2007
Thanks for the heads up on this. No copy of my letter here, but I just wrote and it took less than 5 minutes. You don't need a form letter, (which they quickly recognize and sometimes discount as a member of some formal "group"); they want to get the feeling that support is coming from a broad spectrum of the public, and a lot of it. They count the number of letters for and against, so make it short and clear. Let's see a hundred more names here this week.
By Sam Lightner, Jr.
From: Lander, WY
Mar 29, 2007
Hey Tony
Gotta go with what Rob says.. we need to watch out for all sounding the same. However, the important parts are that we have been climbing in the park since before it was a park, that our form of recreation is recognized all over the world and that climbers from all over the world come to Arches, and that fixed anchors are necessary, so the fixed anchor ban is hurting climbers. Also, I will be pointing out that it's not fair to throw out the whole barrel for one bad apple. Thanks for getting invovled with it. The trickle down could be huge.
Sam
By Isaac T.
From: Rockville, MD
Mar 29, 2007
As of March 29th, 2007 @ 10am PST the site is down I tried to send a letter, to no avail. Alas, the server error said that it was overloaded or under maintenance, let's hope it is overloaded.
By David Hodges
From: Parker, Colorado
Mar 29, 2007
System was back up a minute ago, I sent my comment in.
By Joe Leonhard
From: Denver, CO
Mar 31, 2007
Forward this link to your friends and have them write the NPS as well. This is an important issue. I know many climbers would be devastated if we were denied access to some of the most beautiful climbing spots in the world. GET ON IT!!!
By Rich Kelly
Apr 1, 2007
I posted a positive comment for not restricting climbing in Arches. Easy as pie. Everyone should do it.
By Robin
From: Albuquerque, NM
Apr 2, 2007
I have sent a letter to the park service via the link provided. it is quick and easy! Let's get to it everyone!!
By Tony B
From: Around Boulder, CO
Apr 2, 2007
My letter follows:
--------
Greetings,
It has come to my attention that the policy in Arches National Park regarding climbing, or climbing management, if you will, is now under a review and planning period. This could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending upon the outcome.
I was on my way back to Indiana from Zion National park upon my first visit to Arches in 1986, and wondered about climbing in Arches. The scenery was fantastic and the setting unique. Mind you, this was a few years before I started climbing at all...
A few years later, in 1988, I believe, I returned to the park again and inquired about climbing. As a novice climber at that time I decided that it was over my head, but it remained something for me to aspire to, and a reason to return to the park.
In 1995, as a well seasoned and advanced climber I was able to return to arches upon my college graduation and did climb some routes there. I recall the ease of access at the visitor’s center. The rangers there maintained a topo book and a list of closures, which made it clear and simple for me. My partner John and I did some hiking, climbing, and camping there on our way back to Zion, and eventually on to Red Rocks. I still have pictures from that trip today and it is a positive memory.

As a climber, I like to experience the world in my own way. Some people interact with the world by traveling for golf, others by traveling to climb, others just to sight-see. I enjoy the changing perspectives on the world and physical challenges that climbing presents for when I visit parks like arches, and it remains as my primary motivation to travel and interact with the world and nature around me.

I understand that there have been some negative interactions with a particular climber as of late and furthermore that the publicity stunt has created some difficulty in the park for climbers and park management alike. I would hate to see that destroy a legitimate recreational opportunity for the rest of us. I think you will find the climbing community just like any other- while there are a few bad apples, most of them are good folks who care about the park and about the state it is in. Perhaps much more than your average user group, as we interact directly with the resources rather than just view them…

The Access Fund and the other climber’s user groups are probably in a better position than I am to describe to you what has worked and what has not in other parks, but here is my take on the matter. Make the rules clear and concise. If there is a list of closed formations, I am sure that climbers will stay off of them as well as any other user group. If there are rules about fixed anchors such as:
Location- I.E. not visible from the road.
Color- I.E. brown or close to rock colored. Not blue or white.
Placement- I.E. Obtain an anchor-placing permit by the process of signing an “I read the Rules sheet” waiver before receiving a blanket authorization to place them.
…etc, I am sure that the climbing community will follow them.

But banning them entirely can place a wedge between saftey and abiding the laws, or perhaps encourage 'stealth' tactics. I would hate to top out on a wall only to find out that my anchor potential is poor and I have to decide between putting myself at risk and breaking an unnecessary law. If I were permitted, I would prefer to be able to place a fixed anchor where nobody but a climber would notice them anyway.

Please consider these points in the context of the purpose of the National Parks- we'd like to continue to use them and leave the opportunity open for those in the future as well. Hopefully we can continue to enjoy the park and cooperate to pass by this ‘buzz’ of publicity with minimal changes and no over-reactions or unnecessary rules.

-Tony Bubb
By Isaac T.
From: Rockville, MD
Apr 3, 2007
I did it too. Super easy, common people got a month left before they close the issue to individual comments.
By Ed D.
From: San Francisco
Apr 5, 2007
I just submitted my comments. It took all of five minutes. Do it.
By GhaMby
From: Heaven
Apr 6, 2007
I just sent this.

I fully support small area closures to Arches national park, such as near popular arches, but climbing in Arches NP typically is in unpopular areas and far from the publics eye. Arches NP has a very long, and important historic impact on climbing, and should be considered one of the many activities for the public to enjoy while visiting Arches NP.
Thankyou for the opportunity to add my thoughts.
Scott Eagan
By Don Bushey
Apr 7, 2007
Just posted this:
Greetings,
I would like to comment on the development of the climbing management plan in the Arches. As a rock climber, I have been fortunate enough to have experienced climbing in the Arches and throughout the Canyonlands. I am committed to the preservation of these amazing places, adherence to the regulations that govern the use of these lands, and minimizing my impact in every possible way on this fragile landscape both in my climbing and in my travels to the areas where I wish to climb.
I am very saddened that the inappropriate actions of a few have possibly jeopardized the future of this historic, legitimate, and low-impact form of recreation and use of National Park lands.
I would urge you to consider that most climbers are responsible environmental stewards and that they readily embrace and respect regulations aimed at lowering both visual and environmental impact such as climbing on arches, respecting seasonal wildlife closures, and visually minimizing and camouflaging fixed anchors so that other non-climbing users can enjoy the visual splendor of these unique formations unimpeded.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

PLEASE BE AWARE OF AND RESPECT ALL REGULATIONS REGARDING CLIMBING IN THE ARCHES- CLIMBERS ARE VERY MUCH ON THE RADAR RIGHT NOW. A PARTNER AND I CLIMBED A TOWER LAST WEEKEND AND WERE GREETED BY A RANGER ON OUR WAY OUT. HE DEMANDED THAT WE OPEN OUR CLIMBING PACKS AND WE WERE SURPRISED TO LEARN THAT WE HAD BROKEN THE LAW BY USING WHITE CHALK. HERE IS A LINK TO ARCHES RULES AND REGS:
nps.gov/arch/planyourvisit/cli...
By Bill Duncan
From: Jamestown, CO
Apr 23, 2007
I sent this link to several climbing friends, and if anyone is curious, submitted the following comments to the park service:
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the climbing management plan currently under development. I firmly believe that climbing activities can easily, and with very little impact, co-exist with all of the other park activities. I have been climbing in the desert for more than 17 years, including many ascents within Arches NP. I have contributed many first ascents of towers and other routes to the climbing community in that time. I have always felt that the preservation of the fragile and delicate desert environment should be a priority whenever climbing in the desert. To this end, I have taken care to place fixed anchors where they will not be visible to the casual observer. I usually place fixed anchors only when absolutely necessary, to facilitate a safe descent. I always use tan or copper colored webbing when placing fixed anchors, to help them blend with the environment. I have even painted some of the shiny metal anchors with brown paint (before placement, of course) to render them virtually invisible to all but the climbers looking for them. I do not use chalk (colored or otherwise). I take care when approaching the climbs to avoid walking where there may be an impact to the soils, particularly the micro biotic soils. This is usually very simple, and only means staying in the washes.
Practices such as these may not be instinct to many climbers, and I believe that education is the key to a peaceful resolution. Please consider including some of the above practices in your climbing management plan. If signs and similar educational tools are not enough, you may want to consider educating climbers before issuing a permit, similar to what you do for folks before giving them permission to enter the Fiery Furnace.
It has been my experience that other visitors find climbing a fascinating sport to watch, and are usually very curious. I feel that it actually adds to their visit of the park, because many of the other visitors have never been exposed to technical climbing. Almost every time I have encountered other folks while climbing, they have very good questions to ask. I enjoy sharing my experiences and information with them.
I realize that not all climbers have the same environmental awareness, or perspective that I do. Like any sport, there are some bad apples, but most of the climbers I have encountered over the years are good folks like us. They are willing to follow the rules. Please continue to allow climbing within Arches NP. Most of the climbing is not close to the actual arches, and I believe with education, very little impact will be felt.
Thank you for your time.
William Duncan
By Ken Zemach
Apr 23, 2007
This is what I posted:

Dear Sirs,

I would appreciate it if you would take the following input into consideration in regards to climbing at Arches Nat'l Park.

While I live primarily in California, I do travel throughout the country to enjoy several National Parks and Monuments; sometimes for climbing, other times for backpacking and hiking. The national parks offer a unique and unparalleled experience for climbers, allowing one to experience the beauty of our natural resources from a different perspective, one that is both eye opening and humbling. I can assure you that most climbers I know would certainly qualify as preservationists and supporters of the National Park System.

A well thought-out and reasonable management plan can address the needs and concerns of ALL park enthusiasts, both climbers and non-climbers. History has shown that a cooperative approach in which, while some sensitive areas are considered off limits, most are open for climbing as long as certain rules are respected, results in a balanced and enjoyable park experience for all.

I think you will find that with a balanced approach that allows for climbing as a recognized park activity, climbers will rise to the occasion and help to self manage and self police policy. For instance, having climbers help to create SINGULAR cliff-side access trails that are properly market (Yosemite has done a good job of this) will help to preseve the approach area, yet defray any trail building costs for the park. Having posted access information helps to notify climbers when certain areas are on and off limits, ala the raptor nesting closures at Yosemite Nat'l Park and Pinnacles Nat'l Monument. Through a partnership with the American Alpine Club, Yosemite Nat'l Park has greatly improved the climbing experience, for not only the climbers and non-climbing visitors, but for park Rangers and personnel as well.

Again, I urge an open attitude towards allowing climbing access in Arches, as, if implemented in a sensible, well documented, and reasonably administrated manner, it will increase the enjoyment and manageability of Arches for all park goers and personnel.

Sincerely yours,

(signed name)
By Avery N
From: Boulder, CO
Apr 26, 2007
Just posted mine. Went something like this. PLEASE don't shoot me if I said something dumb!

April 26, 2007

To whom it may concern:

I support a ‘smart’ climbing management plan for Arches and other National Parks that helps to conserve resources for current and future visitors, including climbers.

I am a climber who yearns to do several established climbs in Arches NP, but have not yet been afforded that opportunity. I have, however, spent time hiking around the spectacular arches of Arches NP and deeply appreciate their beauty, presence, and the park service’s ability to preserve these icons and the surrounding delicate resources.

From numerous discussions, interactions on various web forums, and stances posed by the Access Fund and the American Alpine Club, it is clear to ‘us’ that the vast majority of climbers are outraged at the public stunt that occurred on Delicate Arch in 2006. Please be aware that the climbing community, on a whole, did not condone this activity and is highly distraught that it occurred.

We acknowledge that the climber/ranger/management relationship at Arches and other National Parks was stressed for the actions of a single individual and offer our most sincere apologies for the event that occurred. We wish to promote a healthy and positive relationship with the park service.

I believe an appropriate framework for climbing management that clearly outlines a set of rules is in the best interest of the NPS; however, as individual, climber, and frequent National Park user and supporter, I would urge the following considerations:

- Climbing is an evolving sport that fosters creativity and a continually ‘higher achievement bar’. While I find it appropriate to ban or restrict climbing from special structures and areas at environmental risk, I think it is important to not over-regulate by creating blanket regulations that do not foster (and even prevent) future growth of the sport in ANP, such as “A ban on all new fixed anchors”. Instead, guidelines and limited regulations about how anchors may be placed, promote both safety and conservation of resources without interfering with other activities occurring in the park.

- Clear communication to climbers about the resulting climbing management plan is also key. Unfortunately, this must be an ongoing effort, both on behalf of ANP and the climbing community. Some creativity may be required to provide the long-term initial and re-enforcement communication. An example of one regulation that will require continual communication is: “The use of chalk for climbing must be of a color that blends with the native rock” as virtually all climbers are accustomed to using white climbing chalk. I personally agree this is an excellent rule, but it will require special communication to be effective.

- Active inclusion of the Access Fund in the development of the climbing management plan. As the conservation speaking voice for climbers in the US, the Access Fund can both provide a representative pulse of the climbing community as well as specific and appropriate well-thought-out approaches to meeting the park’s needs while maintaining it as a viable, valuable climbing resource. In addition, both the Access Fund and the ‘fathering’ American Alpine Club serve as excellent channels of bidirectional communication with the climbing community.

- Suspension of park use for those blatantly, knowingly, or repeatedly offending park climbing rules and regulations.

- Relying on ‘lessons learned’ and climbing management plans of other ‘major climbing parks’, such as Yosemite and Rocky Mountain National Park, for a foundation of the ANP climbing management plan. Naturally, ANP will have unique needs for which the climbing management plan will need to be tailored.

- Recognition that the sport of rock climbing and the climbing community are growing at a rapid rate and becoming a closer-to-mainstream interest every year. As such, a larger and larger percentage of ANP visiting population will have a vested interest in the park’s climbing resources.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Avery Nelson
Boulder, CO
By Andy Moore
May 4, 2007
Just a reminder... The deadline for comments is midnight (Mtn. time) today, May 4th.