I was going to do another trip post today but something else came up. Here you go, for what it's worth. I would really appreciate your comments and thoughts on this one.
Access is a very funny thing. I don't think many of us really spend all that much time thinking about it, even though we should. It seems that the only time we think about it is when something goes wrong. When we can't count on it or take it for granted any longer.
The dirty truth is that climbing access is not a "right" but rather a privilege. While this is something that most of us can understand, there are still people out there who don't quite "get it". I prefer to surround myself with the former, rather than the latter but, alas, access is one of those polarizing conversations.
Last night I went back up to my office before leaving for home and found a letter from Rib Mountain State Park on my desk. I waited until I got home to open it as I was somewhat resigned to what was more than likely inside.
Just after Thanksgiving Aaron and Josh took a few of us around the park for a chilly day of bouldering. We had a small run in with the ranger but he eventually let us climb for the day. In the process he let us know that Rock Climbing wasn't actually allowed in the park.
We thanked him and before he left I made sure to get his card. A couple days later I wrote to him and stated the case for access. We had a couple of other correspondences throughout the winter, but nothing of too much importance until yesterday.
I'll spare you of too many details unless you really want to hear them. The basics are this:
1 - From 2003-2005 Rib Mountain State Park underwent a long range planning process.
2 - During that time the main area of the park, where all of the bouldering that we saw was located, was designated a State Natural Area.
3 - Rock Climbing is not permitted in State Natural Areas.
4 - Rib Mountain is working on getting proper signage up informing visitors of the climbing restrictions.
It's not done, but it's certainly not optimistic. I'll be the first to admit that I haven't really contributed anything to the Rib community. Seth, Josh, Dobbe, Aaron and Remo have all invested more time there than I ever will, but it would have been a nice surprise to get a different letter.
The DNR brought up a number of reasons for the closure. In my eyes some were valid and some were a bit off, but that's my opinion and possibly that's why I don't make the rules.
It seems the climbing community is ever growing in the number of climbers but somehow ever shrinking in the number of areas we get to climb at. I can't decide if more people would grow awareness and actually open areas or if it will turn out to be the opposite.
In the relatively tight midwestern community losing open access to an area like this is a big blow. It always scares me that something similar will happen at DL(not too likely) or Dodge(a little more likely). We're amazingly lucky to have these areas so close to us and losing one would be a huge blow.
One of the most precarious things we as climbers tend to do is to take ownership of an area. I know I do it to a certain extent with Devil's Lake and there are many people that do the same with Governor Dodge. We start to think of these areas as our own. As something that we're entitled to or can control. That's when things start to go wrong and we start to lose control.
I'll leave you with a story of two unnamed climbers. Some of you know them, some of you don't. I mean this as no disrespect to either of them but it illustrates what I've been trying to explain better than I ever could.
I came in to Boulders a couple years ago, mid winter, and stumbled upon two climbers pseudo fighting. Obviously I eavesdropped.
We'd just hit a bit of a warm spell and things were just barely climbable. The first unnamed climber, lets call them Sven, drove to Governor Dodge to get on some routes at the Qual Wall. In the process Sven drove around the locked gate that leads to the parking and the climbing. Sven went climbing and upon arriving back at their car Sven found a ticket and some REALLY pissed off rangers.
Apparently climbing on bolts that the rangers don't approve of after driving around a locked gate really got the rangers going. Who knew?
The second unnamed climber, lets call them Olie, heard about the above story and got rightly pissed. Olie started yelling. In the process Olie yelled something to the effect of "Don't fuck up access for MY crag!!".
What got to me about Olie's comment was two things. First was the ownership idea. Second was that I've known Olie to have climbed a decent amount at Gibraltar since its been closed. Anyone who climbs at an area after its closed only fucks up access that much more.
So here we have two climbers, Sven and Olie. Sven must have felt some amount of ownership. Instead of walking another 50 yards, Sven drove through the snow, AROUND a locked gate and up an unplowed road. All this to get to some bolts that the park absolutely abhors.
And then we've got Olie who was obviously just looking out for the park. Excuse me, OLIE'S park. Meanwhile Olie was making trips to Gibraltar to climb on closed routes. If Olie ever got caught out at Gibraltar, much like Sven was caught at Dodge, it would all but assure even more permanent closure of the area. I'm not really sure how that area could be anymore closed, but man, that place would get the permanent shutdown so fast we wouldn't know what to do with ourselves.
Strike 3 for both Sven and Olie.
The feeling of ownership can be a very powerful thing if it's used correctly. Taking care of an area because you care about it is a perfect example. Urging others to do the same is another. Unfortunately that's not how most people think. To most people ownership just gives them free reign. That kinda scares me.