LOCUS GROVE & THE NARROWS

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. 

Current status:

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 – nita.settina@maryland.gov

Jeannie Riccio, Secretary of Natural Resources, Maryland – jeannie.riccio@maryland.gov

Daryl Anthony, Executive Director Outdoor Recreation, Office of the Secretary (has the ear of the governor on all matters outdoor recreation) – daryl.anthony1@maryland.gov

Christy Bright, head ranger of New Germany State Park and Regional Park Manager for western Maryland (Sarah Milbourne’s immediate boss) – christy.bright@maryland.gov

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) – sarah.milbourne@maryland.gov

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.

 

Community Committee Meeting: Thursday, 2/24 6-7pm

The next community committee meeting will be open to the general public; please feel free to drop in and invite some friends!

Meeting link: meet.jit.si/swpacc-community-committee

At this meeting, we will identify tasks to put into our 6-12 month plan, along with a preliminary budget to submit to the board for approval. We welcome any input from the community to raise ideas and contributions to this plan; if you cannot attend this meeting, please contact us at community@swpacc.org to be included in the conversation!

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!

 

Fall 2021 Access + Stewardship Committee Updates

Many hands…


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.

rusty bolts

 

Group of rebolting volunteers at Breakneck

Fall 2021 Governance Committee Updates

Building the foundation

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!

Fall 2021 Update from the Community Committee

Bringing the climbing community together


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!