Over the past two years visitors to Rumbling Bald, a popular climbing and bouldering area near Asheville, North Carolina, have witnessed some major changes. In 2007, the State of North Carolina purchased the land to form one of North Carolina’s newest state parks, The Chimney Rock State Park. In doing so, a few changes occurred, with the predominant changes involving access. The State improved the road, changing the rutted-out, one-lane red-clay road into a paved bi-way that allows much easier access for user groups. The area now sports a larger parking area that allows a larger number of users to access the area – an important aspect to consider as the area grows in popularity as one of the premier boulderfields and climbing destinations in the Southeast. And while most simply shrug off the construction of the road and parking lot to development, it is the only development that user groups of the area want to see.
When a tract of land on the “West Side” of the boulderfield that contains, arguably, some of the most notable boulders and problems in the entire area went up for sale earlier this year, many in the community envisioned a not-so-distant future when the bulldozers of progress would be clearing the land for another mulit-million dollar home. That very fear is what motivated the Carolina Climber’s Coalition, a non-profit organization that advocates for climbers across the Carolinas, to move quickly in acquiring the land.
“The original development plans called for the area to be a commons area. The developer told us he wanted to sell it as a lot if it would sell,” Anthony Love, President of the Carolina Climber’s Coalition, said in a recent interview. “We had two different scenarios both of which provided the possibility for future closure. We looked at this issue from different perspectives to see if we were truly justified in pursuing this opportunity. We asked local engineers what the the challenges were in developing this parcel. And, aside from the steep grade on the southern boundary, there was the possibility that a driveway could enter the property from the west. It actually would have been the highest elevation and most level lot in the development with one of the best views. So at that point we had to put ourselves in a future landowner’s shoes and we had to ask ourselves, “If I spent a lot of money on a lot and house in an exclusive development, would I necessarily feel the need to share my back yard or common space with a bunch of people I did not know?”
The answer that has become all-too-common across America in recent years is a resounding, “No.” As more and more landowners prevent access onto their lands for recreational use by the placement of “No Tresspassing” signs, whether that access is for recreational water usage, for hunting, for cycling, or for climbing; these no trespassing signs have significantly reduced the amount of wild areas that the general public now has available. In order to prevent the closure of an incredible recreation area, the CCC arranged for a bridge loan from the Access Fund, a climber advocacy group that seeks to preserve access to climbing areas across the United States. The CCC applied for, and was granted, one of the original loans through a new program called the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign (AFLCC). The AFLCC is the first-ever multi-million-dollar revolving loan program that provides local climbing organizations and other agencies with the funds and expertise needed to act quickly to save threatened climbing areas.
“In December of 2008 we were in the process of looking for opportunities for new land acquisition projects,” Love recalled. “We went through a list of possible opportunities and this one came out on top due to the feasibility of the project.”
The CCC moved quickly through the application process and was one of the first climber advocacy groups to receive a loan through the newly established program. “The purchase was possible because of a major loan from the Access Fund, as well as support from the Triple Crown Bouldering competition, and CCC memberships,” Zachary Lesch-Huey, Vice President of the CCC said.
Currently, the CCC is working hard to raise money to repay the loan so that the funds they used to make this monumental purchase will be available to other climbers as soon as possible.
“We need everyone’s help,” Love said. “Whether it is $10 or $100. Any money helps with this project. We need folks to spread the word to their friends who climb there and those who have never been there before. Go and enjoy this place and help us purchase it. Each and every person who donates plays a role in saving a boulderfield indefinitely.”
“We really need the climbing community, those who know how good the bouldering is here at Rumbling Bald to help us out and raise the money and complete the protection of this six acres of boulders,” said Lesch-Huey.
For more on how you can help the Carolina Climber’s Coalition with their fund raising efforts at Rumbling Bald, visit www.carolinaclimbers.org.
To watch a video about the CCC’s recent acquisition:
To see a sample of bouldering at Rumbling Bald: