Call for Volunteers!
First, some context: If you’ve never heard of them, these two areas are in Cumberland Maryland, about a 2-hour drive from SWPA. Locust Grove is home to multiple 100′ walls (predominantly slab) and over 60 high quality routes half of which are trad and half of which are well protected sport routes. A couple of the easy and moderate trad routes there are very well protected and make for some of the best first leads anywhere in the region. The Narrows has over 100 different trad routes. Both are are located on private property directly adjacent to Wills Mountain State Park. Locust Grove is completely closed and the Narrows are partially closed to climbing.
A new LCO, Western Maryland Climbing Coalition (WMCC) was formed in 2021 specifically to regain climbing access to these two areas. The current goal is encourage Maryland State Parks to move forward with plans to purchase the land where these climbing areas are located and incorporate them into Wills Mountain State Park.
WMCC is currently in the middle of a letter writing campaign to demonstrate the public interest in these properties. SWPACC is encouraging all of our members to join the campaign and write an email using the information below to let Maryland State parks know just how valuable the resource of secured climbing areas will be to the region.
The Narrows: News on this front has been slower to come out than hoped, but the land parcel is on the verge of being sold to Maryland. On the cusp. But it needs a nudge and push from us. Thus this letter writing campaign.
Locust Grove: The land sale of this parcel is further behind that of the Narrows, but the state and the Allegheny Holding Company are in active discussions. Hopefully this campaign will help push that along.
Now, the ask: SWPACC participated in WMCC’s first letter campaign last year but there hasn’t been much news since then. Given the above noted statuses of the two land parcels, WMCC is starting another letter writing campaign. For one, it will remind the higher ups in the state of Maryland that we are still here and still very interested in the land transfer. They were stunned by the number of letters they received last year; they knew that “some” climbers went to the Narrows, but had no idea the numbers, or even about Locust Grove. Secondly, it would help to make sure these land sales don’t lag in bureaucracy any longer than they need to.
What to write? You can resend in the letter you wrote last year, or, if you’re feeling more proactive on the dialogue, maybe say something to the effect of: “Hi, thank you for your reply, I just wanted to check in and see how things were going with the land parcel sales. I haven’t heard much in the past year, and was wondering if there was anything I could do to help.” If you have not written previously we are primarily looking to inform Maryland Parks just how valuable these climbing areas would be and how much more traffic and tourism they could bring to the area. The fact that you write in is almost more important that what you actually write! We really just need to be seen and heard and NOW IS THE TIME!
The pertinent persons and emails to send in your letter are:
Nita Settina, Superintendent of Maryland State Parks – firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeannie Riccio, Secretary of Natural Resources, Maryland – email@example.com
Daryl Anthony, Executive Director Outdoor Recreation, Office of the Secretary (has the ear of the governor on all matters outdoor recreation) – firstname.lastname@example.org
Christy Bright, head ranger of New Germany State Park and Regional Park Manager for western Maryland (Sarah Milbourne’s immediate boss) – email@example.com
Sarah Milbourne, head ranger of Rocky Gap State Park and Wills Mountain State Park (she will oversee the Narrows and Locust Grove when those land parcels are transferred; she is a strong ally of the climbing community) – firstname.lastname@example.org
Please feel free to share this with anyone in the climbing (or hiking, or mountain biking) community that you know who loves the Narrows and/or Locust Grove. And stay tuned to the Western Maryland Climbing Coalition webpage, the WMCC Facebook page, the WMCC Instagram, and the Climb Maryland! Facebook page for future news updates.
We are thrilled to be 3 Rivers Outdoor Co‘s Community Impact Partner for the second half of 2022! This is a great opportunity for SWPACC to raise some much needed funding and better connect with our community members.
We were grateful to join members of the climbing community, along with 3ROC and Old Thunder Brewing for a kick-off on July 17 at the shop in Regent Square. Thank you to all who stopped by to support our work. It was great to both meet new people and see familiar faces. We are excited to begin this partnership for the next six months!
Next time you’re at 3ROC, check out the in-store tap of Old Thunder Brewing’s Stairs Ascending Pale Ale. A $5 donation to SWPACC gets you a cold one while you’re shopping.
Please join us for future events this year with 3ROC including:
As details are finalized and more events are developed, we’ll add information to the SWPACC events calendar. Check back frequently to stay in the loop!
On April 5, 2022, the Pennsylvania Game Commission announced the closure to all rock climbing activities on State Game Lands 51 and 138 in Fayette County. The official statement indicates the reason for the closure is habitat preservation of “several rare, threatened or endangered plant and wildlife species.” Last week, upon notification of the impending announcement, the Southwestern PA Climbers Coalition (SWPACC), together with other PA Local Climbing Organizations and Access Fund, submitted a letter to the Game Commission, stressing our commitment to the conservation of wildlife, consistent with Access Fund’s Climbers Pact and “Leave No Trace” ethic, and requesting that we work together to address habitat management concerns while exploring options for maintaining climbing access. Representatives from the Game Commission received and read our letter, and we remain in communication. The Commission has nevertheless moved to implement the closure of Game Lands 51 and 138. You can read the Game Commission’s official press release here: https://www.media.pa.gov/pages/Game-Commission-Details.aspx?newsid=537.
SWPACC and other PA Local Climbing Organizations, including Eastern PA Alliance of Climbers and Southcentral PA Climbers, with the support of Access Fund, remain committed to the vision of balancing rock climbing activities with habitat conservation on State Game Lands, and will continue to work toward that goal. We ask that, in the meantime, all climbers abide by the closure and do not climb on areas located in SGL 51 and 138, the most well-known of which are Coll’s Cove, Lost Crag, The Vault, Casparis, Rob’s Knob, Fish Rocks, and Zebley Flats. We also ask that, rather than contacting the PA Game Commission or other state agencies directly at this time to express your concerns, instead please contact SWPACC at email@example.com or your local climbing organization and help us in our focused efforts to reopen our beloved climbing areas. As we have updates, we will share them on the SWPACC website and via social media. Thank you for your support and understanding.
The area known as Locust Grove, just outside of Cumberland, Maryland has a 40-50 year history of rock climbing, albeit as a “secret crag.” Over 70 routes exist on impeccable rock, half of which are fully equipped sport routes, some reaching 100 feet high. The majority of the routes are in the 5.9-5.10 range, but there are many excellent beginner routes also, and a handful of excellent 5.11s and 5.12s. Less than one mile away, in an area called The Narrows, there are close to 200 additional routes (multi-pitch, trad).
Recently, Locust Grove has been posted with “No Trespassing” signs and climbers have been told to leave the premises.
Both locations are in close proximity to Wills Mountain State Park in Western Maryland. The park’s current boundary includes part of The Narrows but does not include Locust Grove. There is no legal access to either climbing area.
After 18 months of spearheading a campaign to find a solution to this situation, and pulling in support from the Access Fund and various regional LCOs as well as numerous levels of local and state government (most notably the the Maryland Department of Natural Resources – DNR), SWPACC has learned that the initiative is gaining great momentum. Currently, Maryland DNR is in negotiations with the owners of the rocks at Locust Grove as well as with the various owners of the access trails to The Narrows, with the hopes of extending the boundaries of Wills Mountain State Park to include all of the climbing at both areas as well as the properties necessary for access. Acquiring these lands will allow rock climbers to gain legal access to arguably the best roped climbing within 100 miles of southwestern Pennsylvania. SWPACC is also excited to share the news that as a result of all of this work, a new Local Climbing Organization called the Western Maryland Climbers Coalition (WMCC) has formed to take the lead on this campaign.
We need your help!
In full solidarity with WMCC, SWPACC is encouraging all regional climbers to send emails to the Superintendent of the Maryland Park Service, Nita Settina, and DNR Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio sharing why these land acquisitions are important to you. Please send one email addressed to both women: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
Given that these areas are within 100 miles of not only Pittsburgh, but also DC, Baltimore, Harrisburg and Morgantown, the opportunity for growth in tourism and a subsequent boost in the local economy is high. The proximity is fully within the reach of day trippers. Additionally, the camping accommodations at Rocky Gap State park are of such high quality, that many will begin choosing this area as a much closer option to weekend climbing getaways than Seneca and The New River Gorge that are twice the distance.
Thank you for helping SWPACC support the WMCC to re-open this incredible resource!
On August 28 seven members of the SWPACC Access and Stewardship Committee installed 16 mechanical and 14 glue-in bolts, using all stainless steel bolts to replace rusted bolts across 10 different routes in the main climbing area of Breakneck. The Committee also recommended and the board approved purchasing a drill for SWPACC which enabled to replacement at breakneck and will facilitate future projects.
SWPACC has formally agreed to a lease with the owner of the parking lot for Breakneck which included repairing the parking area. In addition to the Breakneck parking area we are also working on other low cost leases related to securing access to climbing areas.
The last area of focus for access is publishing information about areas where access is already secured but there is no public awareness. Multiple other areas have been initially added to Mountain Project and we’re working to continue to flesh out those pages. In addition we’re finalizing a map similar to Lost Crag for a top rope and trad area and also evaluating other climbing areas for bolts that need to be replaced.
Over the past several months, the SWPACC Governance Committee has been hard at work with the behind-the-scenes functioning of our growing local climbing organization. With the new committees being formed in the past year, the Governance Committee has facilitated the smooth transition from a club that was primarily governed by a board of directors to a member-led organization with shared roles and responsibilities at the committee level. Most recently, we put together SWPACC’s second annual election meeting and successfully had SWPACC members elect three new board members, as well as re-elect some experienced members. Being on the Governance Committee is a great way to get involved with big-picture climbing issues and a great way to get experience leading a community organization! We’re always looking for more dedicated volunteers so check us out at our next committee meeting!
The community committee has been tabling at a couple of events around the city, ordered new blaze orange merch to be stocked in our shop later this season, and met with cross-state LCOs to discuss JEDI issues at large.
Some upcoming projects we’re looking to take on include hosting a bouldering competition in the spring, a used shoe collection and redistribution program to help lower the financial barriers to access for new climbers, and generally building more connections across present and future climbers in the region.
The community committee is still looking for a chair; please contact Vincent (interim chair) if you’re interested in chairing this committee, or helping out with any of our projects!