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.

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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

Voluntary CLIMBING ROUTE DEVELOPMENT MORATORIUM – GRAMPIANS NATIONAL PARK

 

VCC CliffCare Climbing route development moratorium letter NSB e

VCC CliffCare Climbing route development moratorium

 

Interested in knowing more about the current park management plan?

Head here https://cliffcare.org.au/grampians/

 

 

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

gnp image

Access & Environment Report May 2018

Indigenous cultural heritage -As noted in previous reports, the education tab is being updated with info. Here is the latest brief outline on Indigenous cultural heritage. There will be a lot more conversations around this in the future. More info and downloads on the tab itself.

INDIGENOUS CULTURAL HERITAGE
With climbing and bouldering becoming more popular in the cities now – through the growth of climbing and bouldering gyms – it means that more people are heading out to the parks to try it outdoors. On rock. Needless to say, quality rock is of huge importance here.
Rock also plays a huge part in the history of the indigenous people. They used it for shelter. They held ceremonies on and under it and of it. And they told their stories on it. With so much indigenous history now gone, ensuring that what remains is conserved, is of the utmost importance.
And this is where the co-habitation of climbing/bouldering and indigenous cultural heritage can be a delicate and sensitive path that we must tread.
Maybe in years gone by, cultural heritage wasn’t so much of a priority when it came to people getting outdoors and pursuing their activities. But hopefully we know better now. And we know more. Awareness of cultural heritage has been something that, we at CliffCare, have been trying to encourage the climbing community to engage it. With Traditional Owners now in joint and co-management in a variety of parks, the conversation is one that is coming up more regularly.
There will be more discussions on this and hopefully many climbers come to the table to help us progress on workable solutions to use many of the same places whilst protecting the history of the indigenous people. On the Education tab, there are a variety of thoughts, articles and info downloads to start you thinking. A few words below from Gordon Poultney from the first Grampians Bouldering guidebook a number or years ago. Whilst it was written in relation to boulderers and the guidebook, the info is the same for climbing. Bracketed words have been added to the quote. Food for thought.

Picture this. The city that you and your friends and family have lived in for hundreds of generations has just been taken over by other people. Very different people. Massacres, murder, rape and new diseases have decimated your kind to a fringe dwelling existence where once you were free. Your sports stadiums, war memorials, churches and art galleries have largely been destroyed or defaced beyond recognition… There’s no reason for us as boulderers (climbers) to add to this dispossession. Please don’t climb over or near rock art sites. Not only is it illegal but morally wrong to do so. It is culturally arrogant for us to pass ill informed judgement on the quality, merits and value of rock art sites.
No fires, particularly not in caves. If you’re cold put on more clothes or go home.
Wherever you go in the Grampians – if you know what to look for – you will find evidence of the Indigenous peoples who lived in the area, from rock art, tree scarring to the quarrying that you will see at nearly every crag in the Grampians. This heritage is extremely precious, and as boulderers (climbers) we have a particular responsibility to tread carefully because rock art often occurs in the kinds of places where we like to climb – overhanging caves. If you have even a suspicion there is rock art in a cave, don’t climb in it. There is plenty of rock, and no single boulder problem (or rock face/cave) is worth damaging rock art for, or risking our access to these areas.
https://cliffcare.org.au/about/education/indigenous-cultural-heritage/

IMG_1425

One of the many examples of rock art that occur in the Black Range. Some are not so noticeable as this one and are faded and often only seen once one is aware it is there.

Fixed Protection & Development Guidelines Grampians

UPDATE: 5/9/17
Conversations via the Chockstone forum have slowed down but discussions are still ongoing. Some are public, some are private so if you have something you would like to provide feedback on, please feel free to comment either way. What are your thoughts on climbing areas in the Grampians? On development of newer areas, trad, sport and bouldering? Do you see any issues? Do you have ideas on solutions. All goes into the pot. A more recent Access report gives a little more on the topic. Give it a read. Link is here: https://cliffcare.org.au/2018/08/01/access-environment-report-august-2018/
A survey is also in the pipeline which will provide some questions for people which will enable us to get a better idea of numbers, thoughts and ideas to work with moving forward. Fixed protection and development is just one element of the sustainable climbing conversation we need to be having but it is one that is perhaps a little more pressing.

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MAY 19 2018. As noted in a number of Access reports last year, the time was fast approaching that the climbing community would need to start asking themselves the harder questions and the new year would see some of these conversations put in place. Following some issues in the Black Range (Greater Grampians area), where cultural heritage was directly impacted by new development and fixed protection, ensuing discussions with Parks Victoria, Aboriginal Victoria and  Traditional Owners involved not only these sites and the seriousness of it, but threw the conversation net much wider. PV’s concerns(which have been ongoing) about the amount of new development in the park, especially that involving fixed protection was much more than a just a passing comment. Solutions would need to be found. Climbing community feedback and involvement would be encouraged.

Fixed Protection and Development guidelines for the Grampians are now being developed by the climbing community and climbers are invited to provide feedback to come up with a draft framework. We can then finesse this further and my discussions with land managers will also shape the final set of guidelines. There are other elements to this and progressions will be updated as this occurs.

Getting the information out there and getting it back in, is in itself, no easy task, being the fragmented lot we are.We are currently using the Chockstone forum to discuss and provide information to develop a draft. I encourage you all to provide some feedback. Please be respectful and keep any personal slanging to yourself so that we can keep the discussion on track. As we all know, this is an emotive subject for many. There are a number of climbers that are trying to collate the information as it develops and finesse the draft further. At least scan through a good section of the conversation that is developing. This conversation will eventually move on from Chockstone when it becomes too unwieldy and I shall keep you informed on this. This draft will be developed and used in future discussions about climbing and it’s sustainable future in the Grampians. As the GNP is where the bulk of issues are coming from currently, and this is a complex process, working on the Grampians is a good place to start. This will then make it much easier to put together an overall one in the future that may have specifics for certain parks.

I will be setting up another section on the CliffCare website to provide ongoing reference material and links. So keep checking back. This one conversation is part of a bigger one.
https://cliffcare.org.au/grampians/fixed-protection-development-grampians-guidelines/

Chockstone link – Fixed gear guidelines in the Grampians http://www.chockstone.org/Forum/Forum.asp?Action=DisplayTopic&ForumID=1&MessageID=132730&Replies=118#NewPost

If you feel that commenting on a public forum is not your thing, please feel free to drop me a line cliffcare@vicclimb.org.au

Access & Environment Report December 2017

Last Access officer report for the year.
Discussions are still ongoing with regards to the Black Range issues. As I noted in previous reports, this has thrown the discussion much wider than just the Black Range. Cultural heritage and how climbing may impact sites, is firmly on the table. This throws up many questions without as yet, answers. These questions are not just limited to climbing but obviously our focus is trying to provide some answers and sustainable options for climbing to co-exist with cultural heritage in the parks. And the Grampians is the top of the list when it comes to climbing and bouldering sites. And top of the list when it comes to cultural heritage. Especially around rock sites. As the sport of climbing and bouldering becomes more and more popular, the growth of gyms in the city increases and the push to get more people outdoors enjoying recreational pursuits – one of the biggest questions is ‘With rock a finite source, and climbers an infinite source, how do we manage this?’ For some, on either side of the table, maybe the answers are very simple – stop the recreational activity and on the other side continue the recreational activity as always. These are both the easiest options in many ways, but neither of them are fair nor sustainable in the long term. The middle ground or somewhere thereabouts is where we need to get to but this won’t be easy. There are a myriad of other queries and issues within the bigger question and these all need to be discussed. In the new year, I am aiming to ramp up these discussions and to get the climbing community asking themselves the harder questions. And coming up with some solutions that are agreeable to the majority.

One of my difficulties with this, is capturing feedback and collating it, and on some kind of platform that requires minimal management. There are numerous avenues such as CliffCare website, Chockstone, Facebook, theCrag that I visit regularly to gather info from the climbing community. But this can be very time consuming and fragmented. Any suggestions as to a platform that could work better in order to present topics and discussion on this subject to the wider climbing community would be great.
In the meantime, throw the question around in your head, discuss with your fellow climbers and come up with some starting point thoughts.
This Parks Victoria community update just arrived with some words on the issue GNP Community Update December 2017

Plenty Gorge Draft Master Plan is now out for community feedback. We have been in communication with Parks Victoria since the beginning of this and it’s good to see that climbing is to be considered. The particular area where climbing used to occur was under private hands and it was eventually banned by the private landowner. It is currently in the process of being handed back, to once again be public land. Once this has officially taken place, we will be able to engage in proper discussion with PV.  It would be great if people from the climbing community provide some feedback on this. The link for feedback is below. The area is Middle Gorge. Any positive words with regards to including climbing in the future of the park once acquisition is in hand, would be great. And for those that are into mountain biking, this is also a good chance to be involved in the future of the park.
http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/plenty-gorge-park/plans-and-projects/plenty-gorge-park-master-plan

The photos below show a few moments in the last 2 working bees in Central Gully, Mt Arapiles. Great progress being made getting a decent pile of rocks down the track for Walter to work on. One more working bee to go before the end of the year. This next one is being run in conjunction with a trip so check out the VCC trip calendar if you are wanting to join the trip. Otherwise drop me a line or just rock up. 9.30am 16th December. Meet at the top of Central Gully. Wear closed toe shoes and bring water. Simple as! Think of it as a big Christmas present to the Mount.
Great work all and many thanks for your support in Access work. See you all in the new year.
Tracey Skinner – VCC Access & Environment Officer.

This below wasn’t included in my report for Argus but was in Argus as a small photo essay from Michael O’Reilly on the memorial bench that was burnt in the Northern Grampians fires and it’s replacement. A thoughtful piece that not only shows the bench and plaque replacement for the climber who died at Summerday but also the new growth of the bush. Kind of works well together and I thought it worth showing.