As Spring approaches, the number of enquiries I am receiving regarding closures and re-openings in the Grampians has increased. I am hoping to have some solid dates for this very shortly but, the indicators are good – aiming for a Spring re-opening in many of the areas. And first up, let me say that the response and care from the climbing community, of the closed areas has been impressive. And duly noted. For your interest please find the most recent update regarding climbing and bouldering areas following this article.
What is also very obvious is that the popularity of bouldering continues to grow., and quite noticeably at that. While this is great for the sport, for encouraging people to get outdoors and get physical with nature, it also means that there will be more human traffic that the areas and tracks in have to deal with. And this is really where we need to work hard to get some mindsets in place with those using the areas now and also those that will come in the future. This is so important when it comes to the environmental impact that these areas will inevitably have to deal with. We should do everything we can to minimize it – for the sake of the environment we love to climb in and those that will come after us, and also for the continued access that we currently enjoy. I don’t believe that the land managers we currently deal with want to just blanket ban climbing and bouldering so that the issues don’t occur and it doesn’t have to be dealt with. I do believe though that some of the concerns they have around traffic levels and impact, especially in more sensitive areas, are real and deserve to be addressed thoughtfully. This does mean taking into account the rights we have as recreational users, but there are also a suite of other rights and park values that land managers are required to manage. The Grampians is a National Park and one of its main goals (and for those that manage it) is to conserve its environmental values. So anything that contributes to more human usage immediately will be a concern. It is also an area that contains the largest amount of cultural heritage sites and has a strong indigenous community attachment to it. Again – anything that contributes to more human usage has the possibility of hindering the preservation of these sites and therefore destroying precious indigenous history in the process. All of this must be taken into account when managing the park.
Climbing and bouldering is now a very accepted form of recreational activity in the park, and for the most part, does not occur in visitor managed areas. Visitor managed areas = hardened surfaces, tracks etc.and budgets for staff and resources (minimal as they are!) And for climbers and boulderers – that probably sits a bit better for their experience. But if we want this, it also means we need to take on a role whereby we are constantly assessing our behavior and also the environment we are accessing. And when need be, we need to make adjustments – sometimes maybe even a little unpopular with others. I also believe that we can continue to engage in our recreational activity and still look after the environmental values of the park. As always, education is the key. And it’s not a one poster, one season kind of thing where the information gets put out there and that’s it. It’s a constant as new people continue to enter the sport.
Harking back to the first sentence of the second paragraph – very obvious is that the popularity of bouldering continues to grow. New areas are being developed around the Grampians. Some are in areas that can handle the traffic and impact more, and others less so. Getting people to understand this and adjust their behavior willingly, I think, is the key to continued access over time. CliffCare will be working on an educational campaign around bouldering and I am hoping that individuals and climbing related businesses will provide feedback and help when needed. And yes, there will be some posters but more importantly the issues and how to address them is information that is so easily passed on from one person to another. In general conversation the fact that a particular area may be closed at a particular time, and why that might be so. Areas that don’t handle larger groups as well. Suggested behavior when you can see activity of the negative kind. This is the kind of education that has more chance of sinking in.
There will be more of this over the coming months. Any thoughts you may have feel free to drop me a line, write a comment on the blog or facebook and just keep the dialogue going.