LCO 101: Working With State Parks

Categories: LCO 101

State parks are home to some of our country’s best climbing areas, like Hueco Tanks, Rumbling Bald, Smith Rock, Eldorado Canyon, and Cathedral Ledge, to name a few. Here are some tips for working with state parks to expand climbing access and stewardship.

  • Use your local status. You’re a park user, state citizen, and constituent with political power. Reach out to your state representatives, contact the local mayor or county government, and work with the chamber of commerce or tourism department—educate the powers that be about the value of climbing for the economy and the health of your state’s citizens. If you aren’t a local that’s not a problem either. Our Climb Like a Local series provides great knowledge and expertise about each area and how to behave.
  • Think like a land manager. Do your homework: Know your park, the state agency it falls under, and the policies and management plans that apply. Visitor safety, rescue planning, law enforcement, short- and long-term maintenance, natural resource protection, recreational opportunity—these are some common top-level concerns for state park land managers. For example, camping after a day of climbing in Smith Rock is allowed but camping is banned in Eldorado Canyon State Park. Bolting a route or replacing bolts in Eldorado Canyon is a long and arduous process and is rarely approved while Smith Rock is constantly getting updated with new bolts. Each state park has a tradition and attitude that makes it special.
  • Tailor your proposal to their existing plans and priorities. Emphasize economic benefits and increased visits. It’s hard times out there for many state parks and land managers. They’re under more pressure to justify their existence by showing revenue and strong visitor numbers. Make the case that climbers will boost visits and bring more money to the park and local community.
  • Become a management partner. Many park managers welcome support from a local climbing organization. Offer help with things like fixed anchor replacement, mapping climbing resources and trails, large-scale trail and infrastructure projects, and climber sign-in systems. Even better, becoming a state park volunteer is always appreciated by the park service. Volunteering at state parks not only improves the reputation of climbers, but actively improves the climbing area.

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