Conservancy of
Central Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Climbing Management Plan is adopted

Posted by Scott Woods on April 25th, 2009

DCNR has just adopted an official climbing management plan for the entire state. The plan was put together with feedback from several local climbing activists, C3PA, and the Access Fund. This effectively formalizes the relationship between climbers and the state agencies.

Here is the full text of the Pennsylvania climbing management plan.

For the most part, we’re pleased with the outcome. There are some aspects of the plan that are more restrictive than we would have liked to have seen, but we believe that this is a very workable solution for the long term.

Here are the major points:

  • Climbing is permitted on state forest land, unless specifically prohibited due to significant ecological, environmental, geological, archaeological or historic impact.
  • Climbing is only allowed in state parks where it has been approved.
  • Bolts require approval before being placed, and must be high-quality stainless steel hardware.
  • There is a specific process for resolving conflicts.
  • The local climbing organizations and/or the Access Fund should be notified and involved if a closure is necessary.
  • (Ice climbing) dry tooling is not permitted unless the area has been approved for it.

What follows are some of the biggest questions and concerns that we had about the policy.

Why would we want a climbing management plan?

DCNR saw a need for a climbing management plan to help them solidify their position and policies on climbing as an activity on their land. This can be good for climbers as well since it’s a two-way street — yes, there are some restrictions that are placed on climbers. But it also lays out what is permitted, which is important for the long-term viability of climbing as a sport in this state. In particular, it goes a long way towards ensuring that climbing will be permitted in most public areas now and in the future.

What about state parks being closed to climbing by default?

This is actually the same as their current policy, so while it’s not as permissive as we would like to see, it’s not a step backwards either. We will be working with DCNR to ensure that the climbing areas that do lie within state parks are evaluated and listed as open to climbing. To the best of our knowledge, there are not many climbing areas in PA state parks that are not already open to climbing.

What about requiring permission to place bolts?

Again, this is an area where we would have liked the plan to be more permissive. Our current impression is that the current land managers are quite reasonable and pragmatic about the need for bolts to be used in certain situations. We would like to go through the approval process with a couple pilot crags to solidify the entire procedure. Our understanding is that DCNR is looking ahead and wants to prevent wholesale unnecessary bolting of a limited resource. Their primary concern is conservation. That said, we’ve discussed the need for bolts in places where cracks are unavailable, and they seemed to be understanding. This is probably one of the biggest question marks about the plan so far, so we’re looking forward to working with DCNR early on to try to establish a good working relationship on this issue. We don’t want to see overbolting any more than they do, and hopefully we’ll see that climbers are able to secure permission to bolt when it makes sense to do so. If you have an area that you think is a good candidate for bolting, please let us know and we would be happy to help with the approval process.

c3pa-bureau-of-forestry-presentation.jpgA few months back, Ieva gave a great presentation to the Bureau of Forestry on climbing and bouldering in Pennsylvania. We got to talk to the land managers for almost all of the major Pennsylvania forests. The presentation was very well received. Not many of the land managers had experience with climbing, but they were overall very supportive of the sport. Many of them had no idea that there were so many potential bouldering areas. Several of them told us that they had boulders on their land that we should come out and explore. This was a group of people that definitely cared about both the conservation and recreation opportunities on public land. We were very impressed and encouraged. If this is representative of the group of people that we’ll be working with for climbing issues on public lands, then I’m glad that we’re creating some policy and precedent now.

Again, here is the full text of the PA climbing management plan. It’s a fairly quick read, and all Pennsylvania climbers should familiarize themselves with it.

Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns about the plan. We want to hear from you, and will do our best to answer any questions and work with DCNR for climbers’ long-term interests.

3 responses to “Pennsylvania Climbing Management Plan is adopted”

  1. ericdurante says:

    I think that’s really good news. It legitimizes everything that we do in terms of both advocating climbing and climbing itself, and it gives us a framework to operate in instead of having to deal with a lot of the same issues again and again on a case-by-case basis. I think it also lends quite a bit of credibility to C3PA when negotiating with other land managers and property owners.

    Good work guys.

  2. keystoneclimber says:

    Great, so lets get working on the access. First up…lets challenge the ice climbing closure at Worlds End state park. The word on the street is that the closure is due to safety concerns which does not have a significant impact on the ecological, environmental, geological archaeological or
    historical resources or values of the site. Also, does “Brushing away or removing vegetation of any type to clear a climbing route is prohibited.” include rock tripe and other lichens…seriously?

  3. Scott Woods says:

    @keystoneclimber: Great point regarding World’s End State Park. Thanks for bringing that one to our attention, it wasn’t on our radar. Please get in touch with one of us directly if you have any more specific information about the access issues, or if you’d like to help out.

    For those that aren’t familiar with the area, here’s Dave Seasholtz’s description of the area (bottom of the page):

    And an inspring photo:

    Regarding the cleaning clause, the clause in question is:

    Brushing away or removing vegetation of any type to clear a climbing route is prohibited. Cleaning of individual holds is permitted.

    So routine cleaning of a climb, including rock tripe and lichens, should be fine as long as what we’re removing is not rare or endangered. The intent here is to prevent people from cutting down trees or shrubs that are in the way of a route, or doing major vegetation removal.

    That said, this clause is probably one of our highest priorities to have clarified, preferably in writing. We think it’s too broad, unspecific, and somewhat contradictory. If this is going to be a good long-term plan, clauses like that one will need to be clarified so that they’re not interpreted in vastly different ways by parties in the future.

    Thanks for the feedback!