Climbing Access Protected at Austin’s Barton Creek Greenbelt and Bull Creek

Access Fund is pleased to announce that we have strengthened protections for climbing access at two of Austin’s most popular climbing areas—Barton Creek Greenbelt and Bull Creek.

Photo courtesy of Jacob Bodkin

In October of last year the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, which manages both climbing areas, began updating its public access plans. This process revealed two potential issues affecting climbing access: 1) rock climbing was not listed as a recognized activity at Bull Creek in the management plan, and 2) rock climbing was not given clear grandfathered status in the Barton Creek Greenbelt.

Climbing at the Barton Creek Greenbelt and Bull Creek dates back to the 1970s, and it has long been an accepted activity by the City of Austin, which owns the parks. In the mid 1990s, the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve (BCP) was established to co-manage a number of Austin’s existing parks, including the Barton Creek Greenbelt and Bull Creek, for both recreation and endangered species habitat. Recreational activities like rock climbing, mountain biking, and motorcycling were given grandfathered status within appropriate tracts of the preserve and carefully monitored to ensure critical habitat would not be compromised.

“Urban parks like the Greenbelt and Bull Creek are a huge part of why people want to live in Austin,” says Brian Tickle, Access Fund’s Texas Regional Director. “But a lot of people don’t realize that these parks are also managed as a preserve. Climbers have a long history of stewarding the Greenbelt and Bull Creek, and we want to see recreational opportunities properly balanced with the need to preserve endangered species habitat.”

Access Fund was invited by the City of Austin and the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve to participate in a working group to clarify language in the public access plan at both the Greenbelt and Bull Creek. Access Fund also gave public testimony in 2017 and 2018 in support of the mission of the BCP and in recognition of the importance of protecting habitat for endangered species.

The new public access plan was approved last week, and it provides clear grandfathering protection for climbing at the Greenbelt and recognizes rock climbing as an approved activity at Bull Creek.

Each year, the Texas Climbers Coalition (TCC) partners with the City of Austin to steward climbing areas in the Barton Creek Greenbelt and at Bull Creek, hosting trail days to clean up the areas, replace aging fixed anchors, and remove graffiti. We’re thrilled to see recreation and conservation groups working together to care for our climbing areas and aid in the protection of endangered species.