Access Fund to Transfer Holy Boulders to Illinois Climbers Association for Long-Term Ownership

Access Fund is pleased to announce that it has secured a long-term owner and caretaker for the Holy Boulders in Southern Illinois. After extensive collaboration with local climbers, BETA Fund, and Illinois Climbers Association (ICA), Access Fund will transfer the 46-acre bouldering area to ICA for long-term ownership and management.

In 2012, the former landowners decided to sell their 80-acre family farmstead, which included some of the best sandstone boulders in the Midwest. Local climbers Dave Chancellor of Climb So Ill and Leif Faber of the Illinois Climbers Association reached out to the landowners and the Access Fund to help protect this hidden gem of the American bouldering community. To prevent an indefinite closure, Access Fund purchased the property using over $300,000 from the Climbing Conservation Loan Program, with the long-term plan of transferring the property to a non-profit organization or public agency.

Since acquiring the property, Access Fund subdivided and sold adjacent farm lots paying down $102,000 of the loan. And the local climbing community stepped up to raise another $107,000 toward the loan, including a grant from the Conservation Alliance, donations from BETA Fund’s fundraising efforts, and proceeds from the ICA’s annual bouldering competition. ICA will assume responsibility for paying off the remaining $90,000 in Climbing Conservation Loan funds. The group also plans to fundraise for long-term management and improvements.

“The Holy Boulders acquisition is a perfect example of what the Climbing Conservation Loan Program is designed to do,” says Access Fund Executive Director Brady Robinson. “We were able to quickly provide capital to acquire this at-risk area, giving local climbers time to raise funds for the acquisition and pay back the loan. To date, Access Fund has revolved over $1 million to go towards other threatened climbing areas.”

“The importance of the Holy Boulders and the quality of the resource is underscored by the immense support the climbing community has shown for this project over the last four years,” says ICA Board President Phillip Carrier. “The ICA is proud to take on ownership and management responsibilities—we’re ready to work with climbers to tackle the remaining loan, steward, and permanently protect the Holy Boulders.”

Access Fund would like to thank ICA, BETA Fund, and the countless volunteers who have put in hundreds of hours of work to create a sustainable network of trails and staging areas at Holy Boulders. In addition to trail work, ICA conducted prescribed burns to improve the property’s forest health, and BETA Fund installed an emergency medical supply and evacuation kit to assist visiting climbers.

Moving forward, ICA will assume full management responsibility of the Holy Boulders. Access Fund will maintain a permanent conservation and recreation easement to back up ICA’s long-term commitment, ensuring continued conservation and climbing access at the Holy Boulders into perpetuity. BETA Fund will continue to manage the medical kit and serve as the conservation easement land steward.

“We’re lucky to have the commitment and resources of three great organizations—Access Fund, ICA, and BETA Fund—to protect this Midwest climbing gem,” says professional climber and Holy Boulders regular Jason Kehl.

“The BETA Fund exists to help preserve and maintain access to treasured climbing areas in the Midwest, like the Holy Boulders,” says BETA Fund Board Member Dave Chancellor. “We will continue to support and help steward the area so that it can be enjoyed by our local climbing community for years to come.”

We need the climbing community to continue its support of the Holy Boulders. Sign up today for the Fourth Testament bouldering competition on November 5th, 2016 at holyboulders.eventbrite.com and make your donations in support of the Holy Boulders at www.ilclimbers.org.