2023 Access Fund Climbing Advocacy Conference

  • Nov. 10-11, 2023
  • The Record, Bentonville, Arkansas

    Photo of three people posing in front of the building sign.

    SWPACC was excited to meet up with fellow PA LCO EPAC (Eastern Pennsylvania Alliance of Climbers) for the conference.

Last week, Ginette Walker Vinski (SWPACC Board President) and Caleb Hills (newly elected SWPACC board member and Access+Stewardship committee co-chair) joined with members of local climbing organizations from across the country for Access Fund’s annual climbing advocacy conference. Hosted in Bentonville, Arkansas in partnership with the Arkansas Climbers Coalition, the near two-day event was packed with content including how to develop a climbing area from scratch, best practices for working with land managers, and the economic impact of climbers. 

Access Fund’s interim executive director Erik Murdock also provided participants with an overview of the Protect America’s Rock Climbing Act, legislation that if passed, would safeguard climbing in some of our most iconic climbing areas including Joshua Tree National Park, the Diamond on Long’s Peak, and El Capitan. Currently the National Park Service is proposing to prohibit fixed anchors in Wilderness areas like these. We’re keeping an eye on what’s happening at the federal level as it could have implications at the state and local levels as well. Please visit accessfund.org/parc to learn more about the situation and take action by writing a letter to your U.S. representative to protect America’s climbing.

Overall, the conference provided an opportunity to meet with climbing advocates from across the country – Missouri, Massachusetts, Illinois, not to mention our friends across the state, the Eastern PA Alliance of Climbers, and just to our south, the New River Alliance of Climbers. Among key takeaways: 

  • LCOs across the country are facing similar issues – (re)gaining and preserving access, conservation of natural resources, long-term sustainability of climbing areas, retaining an engaged pool of volunteers, managing nonprofit operations, and more.
  • When working with land managers, first and foremost, it’s all about the resource. What resource makes the land special to the land owner? Is it a park, a waterfall, a particular species? What can climbers do to ensure protection of the resource? 
  • Strong partnerships with land managers are key.
  • Climbers can assist in citizen science, e.g. tracking bats (check out Climbers for Bat Conservation!), identifying sensitive species, etc.
  • Considerations/advantages for trail building at urban crags versus crags in the backcountry
  • What does accessibility look like for an urban crag versus the backcountry?
  • Tips and tricks for removing old bolts, bolting an overhang, and other techniques

Much can be covered in a day and a half, but there’s still more conversation to be had. We’re already looking forward to next year’s gathering.