Access & Environment Officer report May 2019

As announced by the VCC President on 6th May    https://vicclimb.org.au/2019/05/access-environment-officer-announcement/  I have resigned from my my position as Access & Environment Officer. Today will be my last day although I will be seeing the project launch of the Central Gully Walking Track Repair through on Saturday June 8th.

This hasn’t been an easy decision to make especially as I leave in a challenging time for Access, but after 11 years in the job, it’s time for a bit of self care, and also for someone else with a fresh heart and head to journey through the next couple of years that the Grampians access issues more specifically, will require. Best wishes for the new Access officer.

This will be my last report. It won’t contain much about the Grampians access – there will be more updates coming out about that soon. Instead it is just a few things I have also been working on with some great volunteers.

CliffCare website

The new CliffCare website is currently being built by Brett Williams of Sidetrip Productions. This is definitely the website I have wished for many years. Easy to navigate, great educational information, advocacy history and current campaigns. Here is a screenshot – stay tuned for the launch sometime in the near future.

cliffcare website screenshot

 

Education

Now that the CliffCare Education Project poster campaign Access is No Accident has launched, further efforts can be put into discussing the issues at length. One of my last tasks to do today is put together some small packs that will be sent to the gyms that contain the Access is No Accident posters, CliffCare posters CLF3 Poster A4_1.0 and postcards, and a gym copy of a great publication – Aboriginal Heritage identification guide. This guide was developed by Parks Victoria’s culture and heritage branch. It is used by Parks Victoria employees as well as other agencies and groups that may work on Parks Victoria managed land. As the climbing community regularly engage in working parties in the parks, being aware is an important part of being a volunteer. Alongside this requirement for understanding the volunteer work, this booklet is a great opportunity for the climbing community in general to read up and understand a little more about Cultural Heritage and how it is more than rock art.

Aboriginal Heritage Identification Guide -1

Aboriginal Heritage Identification Guide

You can also find this for download on the Education tab – Indigenous Cultural Heritage
https://cliffcare.org.au/about/education/indigenous-cultural-heritage/

Many thanks to Parks Victoria for supplying hardcopies and allowing us to provide the pdf for access. This will eventually reside in the education portal on the new CliffCare website but it the meantime you can access it on the current website as noted above.

Central Gully Walking Track Repair Project Launch Date – Pick My Project.

After the successful win in the State Government ‘Pick My Project’ grant programme and all the usual paperwork and permits required –

The launch date is now confirmed – Queens Birthday Weekend – 8th June, 2019.

The project now needs one of the most important contributions in order to get it up and running. You.

We need bodies to help move some rocks down the track so that stonemason extraordinaire Walter Braun, can work his magic. All you need is an hour or so to spare, some closed toe shoes and that’s it.

We will meet at the top of Central Gully at 9.30am  for some launch festivities and then onto a little rock transportation. Please drop CliffCare a line so we can estimate numbers. cliffcare@vicclimb.org.au

Many thanks for the funding provided by the Victorian Government through Pick My Project.

And that’s about it – As always lots more to say, so many works in the pipeline but I will be passing that onto the next person now.
Thanks to many for their support over the years and best wishes in the access space.

Over and out,

Tracey Skinner

Green Photo Background Environmental Protection Poster

Poster campaign launch – CliffCare Education Project

In the early years of my role as VCC Access & Environment Officer, I started developing an idea for an education project for climbers and climbing. The CliffCare Education Project (CEP). For me, education was always the key for a sustainable climbing future. Being told that you can’t do something, that you can’t climb at a, b or c without having a real understanding of why this might be, seems to me like a lesson in failure. It was around the time of my discussions and negotiations for The Ravine – back in 2009 that the idea was put down on paper. You can see the project outline here – https://cliffcare.org.au/about/education/cliffcare-education-project/

After the 2014 fires in the Grampians, concerns about climbing and bouldering impacts moving into the future, were more present in discussions with land managers. Following a report I put out to the community on bouldering and the education project, Jimmy and Reuben from Lactic and Northside Boulders contacted me offering help with design work for the poster campaign.

And here we are. It’s been a long road (there were a number of stalls) and many thanks must go to those who have put volunteer time and ideas into it over the years. Reuben and Jimmy, Indie Laden(designer), Simon Madden, Ross Taylor, Brett Williams and more recently Florence Seow.

I hope that a stronger education campaign continues on from this. The operative word being continues. The poster campaign represents some key issues we face as a user group and the impacts we need to manage. These are our impacts that we need to educate ourselves on – it is our responsibility. The posters are a visual conversation starting point with the opportunity to provide further educational possibilities as we discuss them in more detail. You can download the posters, print them for display or maybe share with club members etc. With a new CliffCare website on the way, more information on the various issues will be available. In the meantime, posters will soon be up on the current website under the Education tab. www.cliffcare.org.au About > Education.

Now onto the handbook….

 

AccessIsNoAccident_FA1000x1000SM_WEB7 (1)

AccessIsNoAccident_FA1000x1000SM_WEB2

All rights reserved © 2019 CliffCare. Illustration by Indie Ladan of Northside Boulders. Content by Tracey Skinner, Simon Madden, Ross Taylor and Florence Seow.

AccessIsNoAccident_FA1000x1000SM_WEB3

All rights reserved © 2019 CliffCare. Illustration by Indie Ladan of Northside Boulders. Content by Tracey Skinner, Simon Madden, Ross Taylor and Florence Seow.

AccessIsNoAccident_FA1000x1000SM_WEB4

All rights reserved © 2019 CliffCare. Illustration by Indie Ladan of Northside Boulders. Content by Tracey Skinner, Simon Madden, Ross Taylor and Florence Seow.

AccessIsNoAccident_FA1000x1000SM_WEB5

All rights reserved © 2019 CliffCare. Illustration by Indie Ladan of Northside Boulders. Content by Tracey Skinner, Simon Madden, Ross Taylor and Florence Seow.

AccessIsNoAccident_FA1000x1000SM_WEB

All rights reserved © 2019 CliffCare. Illustration by Indie Ladan of Northside Boulders. Content by Tracey Skinner, Simon Madden, Ross Taylor and Florence Seow.

AccessIsNoAccident_FA1000x1000SM_WEB6

All rights reserved © 2019 CliffCare. Illustration by Indie Ladan of Northside Boulders. Content by Tracey Skinner, Simon Madden, Ross Taylor and Florence Seow.

AccessIsNoAccident_FA1000x1000SM_WEB8

All rights reserved © 2019 CliffCare. Illustration by Indie Ladan of Northside Boulders. Content by Tracey Skinner, Simon Madden, Ross Taylor and Florence Seow.

WANT TO PRINT THE POSTERS FOR DISPLAY?

DOWNLOAD HERE: AccessIsNoAccidentA2_FAtoPRINT

 

Grampians Closed Climbing Sites Map

Parks Victoria have now sent us the map on the 8 key areas that they noted would be closed to climbing. There are 8 sites identified by blue squares that are the closed sites. At this stage we don’t have any information accompanying the map that notes that other areas in the area are out of bounds. We have interpreted this that climbing can occur in the other areas. We have asked for information to clarify this further but we are interpreting the map provided as:

CLOSED
The Gallery
Gondwanaland
Millenium
Billywing Buttress
Billimina Area
Little Hands Cave
Cave of Man Hands
Manja Area

Grampians NP-Focus area final map

Grampians NP-Focus area final map

At this current time, climbing can continue at other sites as long as park rules are followed. FYI, please also note new Special Protection Zones. If this information changes, we will update immediately. We would like to stress that further climbing and recreation sites in the Grampians are undergoing assessment and review and care should be taken as always. Please respect all environmental and cultural values in the park. If you are not sure, don’t do it.  Please respect all closures and any other park rules and regulations. Ignoring these could jeopardise access to other areas and affect access negotiations. VCC and CliffCare along with other representatives from the community will continue to work with land managers and other parties, to ensure that the best outcome for the parks values and climbers interests can be obtained.

Thank you.

Stakeholder meeting 12 February, 2019 Outcome statement

On Tuesday 12 February, we attended a meeting with Parks Victoria and representatives from the climbing community and the Western Victoria Climbing club to talk about rock climbing access in the Grampians.

Parks Victoria advised that eight areas in the western Grampians will be closed to rock climbers. The exact locations of the areas were not provided at the meeting, however, we were told to expect this information within 48 hours.

Signage will be put up at the eight closed areas over the next two weeks and people ignoring the closures will be issued with fines.

As soon as we receive information about the exact locations of the closures, we will make this available. We anticipate the majority are located in the Victoria Range.

Parks Victoria are banning climbing in these areas because Aboriginal Victoria—the organisation responsible for cultural heritage management and protection—believes Parks Victoria have failed to protect cultural sites. Aboriginal Victoria can place large fines on Parks Victoria in these cases.

There are ongoing concerns about damage to cultural sites due to the impact of climbing and bouldering. Two cases of bolting occurring close to rock art in the Black Range have added to the problems.

As well as the exact locations of the closures, we asked for information about the size of the closed areas (where the bans will extend to) and the reasons climbing bans are being placed on these particular areas.

With more information, we hope to be able to prevent other areas being closed to climbing and find ways to work together to protect the park.

The potential for more closures is a real possibility and Parks Victoria told us they plan to look at the impacts of climbing and bouldering in other areas.

As well as damage to cultural heritage, Parks Victoria are very concerned about environmental damage occurring in the park, in particular the active removal of vegetation around boulders, impacts due to bouldering mats on vegetation, and the use of fixed anchors and track clearing.

Parks Victoria plans to create a stakeholder group to help develop a state-wide climbing policy. And also provide input to update the 2003 park management plan for the Grampians, which currently doesn’t include guidance for activities like bouldering.

It’s essential that our response is clear, coordinated and respectful.

We are a legitimate user group of the Grampians National Park and climbing, like many other activities, can exist in a way that doesn’t impact negatively on cultural or environmental values.

Please respect these bans as they will be policed and ignoring the closures could jeopardise access to other areas. We strongly encourage you to familiarise yourself with the information Cliffcare has provided to date about access issues in the Grampians. It can be found on the CliffCare website.

Further information about the locations of closed areas will be provided as soon as we receive it.

Vertical Life have also provided a statement https://www.verticallifemag.com.au/?p=9835
Thank you.

Tracey Skinner
VCC/CliffCare Access & Environment Officer

Paula Toal
VCC President

Access & Environment Report December 2018 – Grampians

Thank you for your patience while we awaited further information following our first meeting with Parks Victoria’s Head Office (PV) on 5 October 2018 to allow us to paint a better picture of what is happening in terms of preserving and promoting climber access in the Grampians.

Communication about the moratorium and the events of 3 November* when climbers were asked to leave a number of locations in the Victoria Range, as well as Parks Victoria’s restricted ability to advise of further actions due to Victorian Government Caretaker Capacity during the leadup to the State Elections has made the process more complicated, time consuming and drawn out.

We understand the climbing community is eager for explanations, however this is a complex situation with a number of stakeholder groups involved and explanations are not always straightforward.

Below is a brief outline of progress to date and proposed actions including notes from recent meetings with land managers.
Future reports will aim to provide more specifics and we appreciate your ongoing patience and support.

Key updates:

  • VCC/CliffCare submitted proposal letters to PV’s CEO requesting collaboration to develop an updated Climbing Operational Policy for Victorian Parks and a Climbing Management Plan for the Grampians National Park in advance of the 5 October meeting.
  • The creation of a working group for Grampians access has been initiated by the VCC Access Officer. Representatives include members from within the climbing community, with skills in law, policy and legislation, education, human rights, communication and negotiation.
  • PV have initiated the creation of a reference group with representatives from PV, Traditional Owners, VCC/CliffCare and the working group mentioned above. A meeting is proposed to be held in early 2019 preferably in Halls Gap. Date is TBC.
  • CliffCare has released a survey to the climbing community aimed to establish a profile of Victorian climbers and their attitudes toward the cliff environment including conservation of the physical environment as well as indigenous cultural heritage. Link here:ttps://goo.gl/forms/KLHJNzUQARNqM2b82

FAQs page published. Link here: https://cliffcare.org.au/current-access-campaigns/faqs/
We encourage you to take part in the survey and read the FAQs.

Notes from meetings with land managers and moratorium request
5 October 2018
On 5 October, 2018, the VCC President and Access Officer, representing VCC and CliffCare, attended a meeting requested by PV’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and attended by the CEO, Acting Executive Director Marketing & Communications and Chief Operating Officer (COO) to discuss impacts to cultural heritage, rock art protection, conservation and the road ahead for sustainable climbing and bouldering in the Grampians.

The proposal letters mentioned above were sent to PV in advance of the meeting to set the scene for collaborative further engagement and consultation with Land Managers, Traditional Owners and other stakeholders.

Key discussion points:

  • Land managers emphasized their commitment to rock climbing as a legitimate recreational activity in the parks which they wish to see continue to thrive. The protection of natural and cultural heritage values, however, is of the utmost importance and takes precedent.
  • Urgent and immediate attention is required to stop any further damage to Indigenous cultural sites from rock climbing, specifically bolting.
  • Removal of bolts from offending sites needs to be urgently undertaken and PV have requested support from the VCC and CliffCare in that regard.
  • Discussion focused on difficulties ongoing and recognition of the benefits of a collaborative approach between land managers, the climbing community and Traditional Owners to address issues.
  • Acknowledgement that there has been limited information available to enable the climbing community to avoid areas of cultural significance and agreement that the majority of the community act in good faith and wish to be well informed and to respect cultural heritage and conservation priorities. Consequently, there is agreement on the urgent need to identify and communicate climbing and bouldering areas where impacts to cultural sites has already occurred or the risk of impacts at some point in the future is high. How?:
  • Digital mapping has been suggested to overlay known climbing areas with culturally sensitive areas (providing this information can be made available) to ascertain the high-risk areas. This activity would be resourced by PV and supported by the climbing community through the working group.
  • Further site visits are required to establish status in terms of Park Values – including not only cultural significance but also environmental/reference and catchment information.
  • Importance of Climbing/bouldering community to provide information on areas of importance and possible access solutions. This can be undertaken through the working group as well as open consultation facilitated by education campaigns and discussion groups.
  • The need for clear public communication of the areas where climbing and bouldering can occur and where it can’t. Avenues through which this information could be communicated and published to the community both here and abroad need to be explored.
  • Development and implementation of an education and communication campaign has been initiated by CliffCare. PV indicated support to participate in the development and rollout of this campaign as well as developing their own communications messages regarding climbing in parks. The campaign will consider the importance of park values including cultural heritage, conservation and safety. Platforms will include posters, videos, workshops, online, sessions through indoor climbing gyms to reach newer climbers and boulderers likely to be transitioning to outdoors.
  • Need for an updated climbing policy to recognize a diverse range of climbing opportunities within the parks and how this would provide clear guidance to park staff and advice to stakeholders around climbing—what, where and how. Climbing and bouldering area development and fixed protection require more discussion, consultation and workable options.

31 October 2018
On 31 October 2018 the VCC/CliffCare put out a request to the climbing community for developers to refrain from further climbing and bouldering route development in the Grampians. This was in the form of a voluntary moratorium for a year.
The reason for the moratorium was to:

  • prevent further impacts to sensitive cultural sites
  • prevent larger scale bans of climbing in the park
  • enable discussion to establish and clarify sensitive areas.

14 December 2018
In December, we attended a meeting with PV’s COO. Discussion was focused on the outcome of recent presentations made by PV to their Board regarding the their own path forward with Traditional Owners and their Land Management obligations. In particular the following steps are now being set into progress:

  • Phase 1 (December 2018 – January 2019): Initiate creation of a reference group. Meeting with Traditional Owners, PV staff and VCC/CliffCare and working groups representatives in the new year. Dates have not been locked in as yet.
  • Phase 2 (December 2018 – June 2019): Systematic and complete, evidence based impact assessment of climbing areas to be undertaken with the aim to have clarity around where climbing can continue and areas where alternative access considerations might need to be made.
  • Phase 3: Ongoing, continuous improvement.
  • Parks Victoria will be employing a Rock Art Coordinator.
  • Parks Victoria will be taking stronger steps to protect rock art and cultural heritage
  • Parks Victoria are considering the value of introducing permits and an induction process in order for people to climb in the park similar to those in place with other recreational parks user groups such as the 4WD community and Hunters & Fishers (i.e. conservation, cultural heritage, safety, do’s and don’ts.) Parks Victoria would wish to collaborate with VCC/CliffCare to implement such a process if it is deemed appropriate

We hope this provides a little more information on some of the recent events.

The FAQ page on the CliffCare https://cliffcare.org.au/current-access-campaigns/faqs/    website should provide further information and should you have any questions you feel could be beneficial to have included here, please send them through.

Tracey Skinner
VCC/CliffCare Access & Environment Officer
And
Paula Toal
VCC President

* Climbers were asked to leave a number of sites in the Victoria range by two rangers in what was not a sanctioned Parks Victoria operation. Climbers were presented with flyers and a map that was later identified as a draft internal discussion document of land managers.

Grampians Access & Keeping up to date

Have you signed up to follow the CliffCare blog?

Rather than just one main site where the climbing community goes to collect information, we tend to be a bit scattered in this regards. Be it route info, access info and updates or general climbing articles, the sites we visit are many. And when it comes to social media, getting up to date info can be dependent on whether you check regularly or even if it shows up in your news feed. And that probably won’t change anytime soon.

There are some great sites to visit and many Facebook pages that can give real time feedback. Some of this can have the tendency to wander off track or continue conversations that may not be so well informed. And understandably, sometimes this happens because at that present time, there may not be many hard and fast facts.

As we start down the road of collaborating on a sustainable climbing future in the Grampians National Park, I would like to take this opportunity to ask that people sign up to follow the CliffCare website. What this means is that every time something is posted, especially important now with the Grampians, you will receive an email alerting you to it. Whilst I do share these also via social media – as noted above, seeing it can be dependent on what shows in your newsfeed or how regularly you check it.

This way you get the actual Access details and reports about any current progress. Links to any surveys or calls for help. You get the basics, the fundamentals. And then, after that there are plenty of other avenues and sites  to read others thoughts or suggestions.

We think Vertical Life gives some well thought out and balanced articles. Food for thought, ideas for the road ahead.

Their latest:

https://www.verticallifemag.com.au/2018/11/grampians-access-a-primer-for-the-confused-and-concerned/?fbclid=IwAR199yWr3lTrIfkYWtypGc7ZOuvcfdNyTvN9oN2aqIgDniF0hqTzRKsjHnM

As always, your feedback to CliffCare is much appreciated. It has all been, and will continue to be, taken onboard. I will endeavour to respond to all, but please understand that this isn’t always possible.

Tracey Skinner
VCC/CliffCare Access & Environment Officer

Access & Environment Report August 2018

Simple Equations

No-one can deny that the amount of people now heading into climbing and going outdoors has grown since the early heydays of climbing. And by that simple statement, I am sure that the majority of you can relate to the fact that as anything grows, its wants, needs, advancements and issues, grow along with it. Many codes of conduct, any operational guidelines or policies soon become outdated as the activity outgrows the very guidelines put in place to protect it or the space in which it exists.
In more recent months, some conversations around fixed protection and development in the Grampians has come to the fore. Some people are asking why? What’s the problem? Rather than outlining too much here, I will leave it up to the reader to read back over previous Access reports. It is all there.

Fixed protection is one element of the bigger picture. It is not the only one. We will need to deal with all.

The biggest issue though that has an overall impact on all of the issues we need to deal with, whether it be environmental, cultural heritage or sharing the space with others, is growth. The amount of people now climbing, bouldering and accessing the outdoor option is growing and will continue to. Which means that the impact is much greater. How climbing was managed, or not managed previously, is no longer looking after the space and in the longer run, looking after the activity.

A complex conversation. There are land manager and traditional owner perspectives. There are climbing community ethics. There is the evolution of climbing and bouldering. And there are rules and regulations. The reality is all do change over time. Which means that we all need to reassess what works. It is something we do everyday in many aspects of our life and the world we live in. Especially if it’s due to growth. It’s why we re- assess our energy options, why we re-assess the way we package our food, our lives… The sheer volume has an impact.

Climbing/Bouldering is no different. That moment in time and the joy of being on rock both spiritually and physically, simply isn’t the only thing anymore that we have to think about. The sheer volume is having an impact and those impacts are relayed to me directly by those who are tasked with looking after the space, as well as those who also share it.
Victoria has a range of climbing areas across the state with the most heavily visited being the Grampians National Park and Arapiles Tooan State Park.

So why the current focus on the Grampians? Because at this moment in time the impacts via climbing and bouldering are growing and being relayed to me, as now no longer acceptable in the current state of play. So how do we manage this? There are so many questions and there will be many conversations moving into the future. So as a starter, some food for thought, some direction for conversations for the climbing community. On a rope. On a boulder. Or over a beer.

A few points of interest:

The bulk of cultural heritage ie indigenous art sites, sacred locations occur in the Grampians. The Victoria Range in particular has the highest percentage of all known and registered sites in the park. A large amount of these sites are also rock sites.

The majority of Indigenous cultural heritage sites that are known and registered are not known to the general public. It is against the law for Parks Victoria or anyone else with that information, to notify the public of their exact locations.

It is a National Park. It’s main aim is to conserve its natural and cultural values. Any recreational activities need to sit alongside these values but with minimal damage/loss to them. Impacts will differ from location to location

Climbing is a recognised activity in the park and one which is promoted. There are some areas within the park that are particularly sensitive for either cultural or environmental reasons and climbing amongst other activities, is not allowed.

The Grampians National Park is moving towards a Joint Management Plan whereby it will be managed by both Parks Victoria and Traditional Owners.

Land Manager and Traditional Owner Concerns – Grampians National Park

Direct impacts to cultural heritage sites

Route development in known areas of cultural heritage significance and therefore possible impacts to undiscovered sites

Environmental impact to surrounding cliff landscapes due to increased traffic. Excessive social trails especially in bouldering areas

Human waste issues at climbing/bouldering sites/bush camps

Increased use of fixed protection

Chalk impacts

Wire brushing

Vegetation removal to access climbing or bouldering sites or the actual routes

Current management plan boundaries not being followed

Questions & Actions – to ask yourself, your climbing friends, to ponder, to respond.

Climbing and Bouldering Route developers:
Check the park management plans. Understand the environmental and cultural heritage values of the park and the particular areas you are developing. Does the plan prohibit climbing in that area? Is there a high level of sensitive cultural heritage in the area. Rare flora or fauna in a threatened habitat?
Caves and overhangs often have a higher likelihood of cultural heritage. Bouldering development can impact a larger area either directly or indirectly with traffic and multiple social trails, within a location that contains a high percentage of sensitive sites.
Don’t know? Ask.

When using fixed protection:
Alongside the perspectives of land managers and park management plans, this brings up the topic of climbing ethics within the climbing community ie traditional and sport climbing. A complex and often divisive one. And a changing conversation as our sport has evolved. That fixed protection is an element of climbing is not denied, but how and when, is the conversation we will need to have. At this point in time, climbing in the Grampians (and Victoria) has operated on the understanding that if it goes at trad it should remain so. Fixed protection besides the physical impact, can increase the traffic to an area so this should be taken into account. The following points are some suggested already by members of the climbing community that might go some way towards helping to manage this one aspect in the future. Only a guide at this point but something to develop further.

Is the route you wish to bolt in a predominantly sport climbing area?

Is the route in a sensitive area be it cultural heritage or a fragile environmental landscape?

Is the route you wish to bolt naturally protectable?

Is the route visible from major tourist/public tracks or areas?

Do you have sufficient knowledge of and experience in placing fixed gear? Same as in the case of removing it.

If you are considering retro-bolting the route, do you have permission from the person (s) who made the FA?

As noted , climbing is a recognized activity in the park. We are working towards a joint understanding between all parties for a sustainable climbing future. There will be many conversations like this. Throw this info around in your head. Ask the questions in your groups. Your help via feedback, support for closures that may be in place and a little extra care when developing or out climbing or bouldering, can and will make a difference. Any thoughts on this you want to send me? I am very keen to hear. Drop me a line. Any other way you think you can help, maybe a particular issue you feel passionate about – there are always jobs. Drop me a line.

Many thanks to all the people from the many different avenues of our climbing community who have taken the time to provide their thoughts, be it publicly or privately. It all goes into the pot.

Tracey Skinner
VCC Access & Environment Officer

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