Access Fund Purchases Two Chattanooga Bouldering Properties

Access Fund and Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC) are pleased to announce the purchase of two bouldering and climbing access properties just north of Chattanooga, Tennessee. This acquisition secures a new Chattanooga climbing area, known as Hell’s Kitchen, and creates a critical public access point to the climbing at Dogwood Boulders.

Photo courtesy of © Shannon Millsaps

Both properties, owned by the same private landowner, have been on SCC and Access Fund’s radar for years as high-value to Chattanooga climbers. When they went up for sale, Access Fund began discussions with the landowner to prevent the properties from falling into non-climber friendly hands. Coordinating with SCC, Access Fund reached an agreement with the landowner in late 2017 and went under contract in January 2018. Access Fund secured both Chattanooga climbing areas on April 10 of this year, using $125,000 in short-term funding from their Climbing Conservation Loan Program and $6,500 of initial support from SCC.

“Both Hell’s Kitchen and Dogwood Boulders are remarkable climbing resources, with outstanding conservation values,” says Zachary Lesch-Huie, Access Fund Southeast Regional Director. “We’re thrilled to play a role in protecting them.”

Hell’s Kitchen, located just outside the small community of Graysville, is a 10-acre property adjacent to Cumberland Trail State Park. The area has never been open to climbing, and it features a densely concentrated boulderfield with free-standing blocks, short sections of cliff, and a labyrinth of hidden corridors offering hundreds of problems and a small number of short, gritstone-like routes. Boasting quality sandstone, varied terrain, and striking lines, this is a prized new climbing resource, comparable to the bouldering at nearby Stone Fort and Rock Town.

A few miles northeast, the acquisition of a 7-acre tract off Bluffview Road will provide a key public access point to the Dogwood Boulders, previously only accessible via a 6-mile hike. In 2009, a large portion of Dogwood Boulders was preserved in a major land conservation acquisition that added thousands of acres to Cumberland Trail State Park, creating the Graysville Mountain section. But that purchase still left a portion of the Dogwood Boulders unsecured, with a lengthy approach for climbers. This new acquisition secures a critical access point that will enable the build-out of a new public parking area and trailhead off Bluffview Road, as well as protect a small section of the overall Dogwood Boulders and a portion of cliffline. This new purchase allows for local climbers to easily access these incredible Chattanooga boulders without risking upsetting private land owners.

“SCC is extremely excited to support this project and see these areas preserved for future generations. We have a long history of partnering with Access Fund to protect important areas and access points, and this is another great win,” says Cody Roney, SCC Executive Director.

Access Fund currently holds both properties, with the intention of working alongside SCC to create sustainable access to the areas and eventually transferring them to Cumberland Trail State Park for long-term stewardship and climber-friendly management. Hell’s Kitchen will require construction of an approximately half-mile long spur trail, stemming off of the main Cumberland Trail along Roaring Creek. The Dogwood Access property will require road improvements, a parking area, and a short access trail before being ready for public use.

Cumberland Trail State Park officials have identified both properties as important additions to the park, and they are currently seeking approval to acquire the properties from Access Fund. Climbing and bouldering are recognized as welcome and appropriate recreational uses of the Cumberland Trail and other Tennessee state lands.

Credit Photo Courtesy of:
© Shannon Millsaps

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We need to raise $167,000 to complete this project and ensure both properties are protected for long-term climber friendly management.
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