IMPORTANT: PA Game Commission announces closure of State Game Lands 51 and 138 to climbing

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 info@swpacc.org  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.

Map of State Game Land 51

Map of State Game Land 138

Help secure access to stellar climbing areas in Maryland: write a letter!

[Okay, actually, send an email 🙂 ]


The Background

Climber at Locust Grove
Locust Grove

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: nita.settina@maryland.gov and jeannie.riccio@maryland.gov.

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!