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Rock/Creek takes steps to combat climber impact at Stone Fort (LRC)

Saturday, March 17: Stone Fort trail day

Very, very special thanks to everyone that participated in the Stone Fort trail day on Saturday March 17! Volunteers gathered at 9:00 am at the trailhead, where Southeastern Climber’s Coalition intern Michael Wurzel had delivered a variety of trees from Blankenship Farms, along with mulch, soil conditioner, mattocks and shovels.

Included were long time local climbing activists John Dorough and Chad Wykle. John is also a sales representative for Five Ten & Petzl; Chad is a buyer for Rock/Creek and board member of SCC, and Friends of the Cumberland Trail.

The Crash Pad also delivered a large stack of flagstone! All of these were key ingredients for the huge plate of work that had been scheduled for the day.

This particular trail day, and the two trail days that preceded it, were developed as a result of an Environmental Impact Study that began in November of 2010. With the support of Dr. Rob Porter, the University of Western Illinois and long-time local climbing activist John Dorough, this study set a significant precedent, with Triple Crown covering the $700 expense of the study.

View the complete study here.

Studies of this type are generally applied to moderate-to-large areas such as federal Wilderness Areas, or large-scale climbing areas like the New River Gorge and Yosemite. The result likely represents the best way for climbers to proactively address & mitigate impact to our climbing areas in the future, by closely measuring this impact over time. It’s a relatively unprecedented effort by these non-profit organizations, who are seeking the “next level” of responsible land management.

To make this trail day possible, a $2,000 grant was awarded in the winter of 2012. Per the proposal, these grant monies were earmarked for the purchase of trees and materials intended to alleviate impact identified by the Environmental Impact Study. Recognition is due again to our friends at Rock/Creek and the Triple Crown Bouldering Series for continuing to support the land stewardship efforts of the SCC!

Anyway, on to the Trail Day:

During the first 30 minutes on Saturday morning, climbers lugged trees and equipment to the Wave area. Michael Wurzel then held an excellent ‘planting class’ for our volunteers, teaching us several pieces of key info that helped green up our brown thumbs!

Based upon information from the Climbing Impact Study, Michael had chosen key sites in the Genghis Khan, Wave, Fire Crack, and Crescent areas to plant our trees.

We quickly went to work in groups of two (one mattock, one shovel) to dig our holes, mix in soil conditioner, place trees at just the right height, re-cover, and surround with mulch.

With the help of several strong backs — in particular Matt Ballard, Whitney Boland, Ron Nance, and Access Fund Regional Coordinator Zach Lesh-Huie — many large pieces of flagstone were also toted in. These were used to redefine the green spaces in the Wave/Fire Crack Corridor, and to define some of the green border behind Genghis Khan. The trees and landscaping made an immediate, positive visual impact.

Two groups also worked in the Crescent area, planting and landscaping. As this area was being completed, a small group also worked in the Space and Odyssey Corridor. Then, a bit later (with the help of golf carts), more trees, mulch, soil conditioner, tools and flagstone were driven out to the Crack of Doom Area.

Cody Averbeck and Dan Rose addressed the steep trail below the Cable Route. This former social trail followed the fall line of the hill, and had set up an erosion issue. Cody and Dan led a group that built a new flagstone stairway to eliminate the erosion at the site.

At the same time, the rest of our volunteers redefined the trail systems between the Crack of Doom Area and the boulders below the Cable Route. Volunteers also planted many trees in this area as well.

In all, 45 trees were planted, green spaces were defined in the Wave/Fire Crack Area, Crescent Area, Space and Odyssey Area and the hillside below the Cable Route. For good measure, volunteers also planted several Crepe Myrtle Trees along the flagstone walkway above the 18th Green.

Very special thanks to all of our volunteers! Each one of them worked super hard. The trail day would have been impossible without their support: Michael Wurzel, Cody Averbeck, Theresa Averbeck, Whitney Boland, Matt Ballard, Ron Nance, Zach Lesh-Huie, Dan Rose, Cecelia, Shay, Chad Wykle, Jennifer Baxter & friends, and YES: Wills Young and Lisa Rands!

Please encourage everyone you see at Stone Fort (and all of our climbing areas) to travel ONLY on established trails. Always avoid stepping on, or placing your gear and crashpads on, any plants or vegetation when bouldering.