Access & Environment Report June 2018

I recently took advantage of a moment in time and a conversation that was happening on Chockstone to add some comments. here This is from my perspective as an Access officer that deals directly with Land managers, Traditional Owners and a variety of other stakeholders. This is also alongside my interactions from members of the climbing community as well. Which is who I work for. I do this regularly on discussions I come across be it social media, in person, forums etc. A separate thread was then started by a forum member to begin a conversation around ‘the bigger picture’ element of the original topic, following my comments. here This forum conversation was tackling one of the issues that I have been noting for a while now in Access reports and articles – fixed protection and development in the Grampians National Park. Land manager and Traditional Owner concerns have been escalating and this year would need to see the climbing community put some difficult conversations on the table. About how we develop new areas and how we use fixed protection in a National Park that besides its environmental values, has a high percentage of cultural heritage. And where many of these cultural heritage sites exist around rock. And in a nutshell, to be part of the solution and have a place at the table. I further commented on this thread and asked if the original poster was happy for me to direct the wider community to it. Something, which he himself had noted would need to happen with this kind of conversation. More voices the better was the general feedback from many on the thread. And so I did via the CliffCare website and social media. This report is not so much about the topic itself – that will be the next Access report for July – but rather, as I noted above, some clarification about the conversation taking place on Chockstone. I have included the post from the CliffCare website below and following that, a little clarification on the Chockstone discussion-

CliffCare website post May 19 https://cliffcare.org.au/2018/05/19/fixed-protection-development-guidelines-grampians/

So, whilst most of the points I note below have actually been noted in my original post and in further comments on Chockstone thread itself, I will further clarify this:

The conversation was started by an individual, and as an Access officer for the climbing community, I took advantage of the situation to encourage it to continue. To talk about a difficult topic and throw some ideas around and so, in the longer term, also provide myself with feedback and some ideas and help, for draft framework.

This conversation, and I applaud all who have commented, is just that, a conversation to help develop some kind of draft guidelines. It doesn’t mean that everything is or will be endorsed by the VCC and CliffCare. Noting on a post that the VCC and CliffCare is involved in this means that this topic is something that I am dealing with in my work in Access and my job is to help find a solution and engage the community in diaglogue. Everything will be taken on board. From Chockstone and any other avenues. As was always the intention. The opportunity to comment other than on Chockstone was offered on the CliffCare post and also on the forum post The conversation wasn’t going to stay on Chockstone.

The guidelines that will be developed are guidelines from the climbing community’s perspective. They obviously need to take on board some of the issues we are dealing with but they are not Parks Victoria guidelines or policies. They will eventually be VCC guidelines, that the climbing community has helped put together and can reference. Just like the Climbers Code of Conduct that was developed a number of years ago. By climbers (and as a point of interest, much of it occurred via Chockstone) I am hopeful that once we have some of our own guidelines that address some of the issues that will impact our climbing, that further on, we can sit at the table and include ourselves in feedback on park guidelines on climbing.
As an added to this, the VCC Bolting Policy is currently being updated. This is an overall policy on bolting, not just about the Grampians. It is also not a Parks Victoria bolting policy.

There appears to be some resistance from some quarters about the conversation being on Chockstone in the first place. I will be the first to agree that sometimes Chockstone can be a frustrating place, either from the fact that you might have to wade through pages of conversation (the hint is in that word) or the fact that some vocal forum members may shout you down, bully a bit or direct it off topic. Not always a joyous experience. But, I use it the same way as I use every other info point from private fb groups to public ones, public pages, route databases etc etc. It is not a perfect system. Chockstone does at least provide instant real time conversation that accommodates every user that wants to join. And this kind of instant feedback is so helpful in my job. And when I see a topic that I can add knowledge to from my job perspective, I will comment. This was a conversation that was started by a member of the climbing community. Even outlandish – in his words. And good on him. There was some good robust discussion from all, that in my opinion didn’t sink to personal slanging. There were differences of opinion sure. If it had been started on theCrag, would it be more relevant? Or on a private climbing page on Facebook? Other than those talking on Chockstone, and from a couple of private emails with some great points to offer I may add, it has been quiet. Having said that, the thread has been viewed over 15,500 times. Even with return visits that’s a lot of community reach.

It is disappointing as it seems that the fact that a conversation, that all were invited to was started on a forum that wasn’t to everyone’s taste, has taken over the actual important discussions itself. Perhaps it’s more about the conversation topic rather than the mode.

The conversation will be continuing. Via articles, surveys, social media, route databases and Chockstone. It just takes a little while. And all will be taken on board. Please be involved.

More will be in the next report for July. And again, if you don’t feel comfortable about putting comments out into the public domain, send me an email cliffcare@vicclimb.org.au

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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/

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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.

Queens Birthday Annual Planting Event 2018

What the….? A year already! The Annual Queens Birthday Planting (Campground Revegetation Project) event at Mt Arapiles is only 10 days away. You’ve done it before and you know it’s a good time to be had. Playing in the dirt, building mud castles, sprinkling mulch and easing those baby trees into the ground. It’s like a big love fest for future greenery. Get loved up and roll on up. There is also a VCC club trip happening to coincide with it.
https://vicclimb.org.au/…/queens-birthday-weekend-tree-pla…/

What are we planting this time?
20 White Cypress Callitris glaucophylla
10 Port Jackson Pine Callitris rhomboidea
20 Drooping Sheoak Allocasuarina stricta
20 Yellow Gum Eucalyptus leucoxylon ssp leucoxylon
3 Wallowa Acacia calamifolia
All gathered seed from Mt Arapiles and grown by Ollie Sherlock

reveg poster june 2018

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

Central Gully Repair Project Work Day

This coming Saturday 5th May!

WOD. None of the other Workouts of the Day give you warm fuzzy feelings, or brownies for that matter. Rock up, haul a rock or two, feel pumped, eat a brownie, go climb. Or sleep. Whatever. Let’s do this people! (said in a deep, yelly and authoritative voice. But still a friendly voice:-)

 

central gully working bee 5th May

Access & Environment Report April 2018

I have been spending some time adding and updating info on the CliffCare website. At the moment I am focusing on the Education tab. Some of these topics will eventually be part of a poster and video campaign but all are definitely issues to take on board as climbers. First up:

Trails

Marking and Maintaining Access trails

Keeping on Track. Simple concept hey?

Staying on trail.          But which trail?                What if there is no trail?
(Established trail)      (Multiple social trails)    (New climbing and bouldering)

Hmmm….Now it sounds a bit more complex.

As more people take up climbing and bouldering and then head into the bush, the issue of trails – the creation and the maintenance of them, becomes more and more a topic on the land managers blackboard. This then becomes more of an issue that we in the climbing community, need to take on board and work towards resolving. So addressing some of the problems now, hopefully can prevent them into the future as new climbing areas are created.

Why is staying on the trail so important?

Fragile plant life. Walking off trail means you will be trampling vegetation. Much of this is fragile. The parks now more than ever are also at risk of invasive plant species – weeds. Some of the native vegetation is in a struggle to survive as it is. Once it is gone, it basically allows the often stronger invasive species to take over with the indigenous plants never returning.

Erosion and Instability. A domino effect. When you trample vegetation, over time it doesn’t regenerate, leaving the top soil exposed. This is then lost through a combination of foot traffic,rain and wind. The problems with this are multiple. Gullies are formed and become water runnels which further erodes the area. As the gullies deepen, people walk a little further to the side to avoid them and the process starts all over again. Wider and wider sections of vegetation are lost and the trails and surrounding area become unstable.

So, First and Foremost –

Stay on the established trail. That means going into and out of a climbing area. In most cases established trails, whether they are formal ones created by land managers or the informal climbers access tracks, have been created to provide sustainable routes. If the trail is muddy or vegetation grows across, continue to stick to the trail rather than travelling wider to avoid. This just creates a new track or a wider one. Going off trail damages the environment. For all the reasons noted.

Creating New Tracks

The reality of developing new climbing and bouldering areas often means that people will go off track. If there is no way of staying on an established trail, please do this thoughtfully. And minimally. Guidelines to take onboard –

Choose the less steep option. Unless it is on a rock surface, steepness means erosion later on. Switchbacks are better options for steep ground. Going steep because it cuts a little time off getting to the climb isn’t worth the loss of our native habitat.

Gullies aren’t great as access tracks. Gullies are formed by water which means that excessive foot traffic will further speed up the erosion process as the gullies become deeper.

Stay on durable surfaces ie rock whenever possible, to spare fragile plant life.

Digging and disturbing soil – leave the tools at home. All of the parks in Victoria are required to adhere to the Aboriginal Act (2009). And before any soil can be moved, a cultural heritage inspection needs to take place to ensure that no cultural heritage is being impacted by soil being moved. For instance, if Parks Victoria want to put in a new trail, they are required by law to first get clearance to do so and that means getting a cultural heritage inspection along with a variety of other requirements.

Don’t install any infrastructure.

Refrain from cutting or breaking any native vegetation to create a trail.

And lastly – if there are any areas on climber’s access tracks that have issues, be it erosion, fallen trees, new multiple social tracks growing etc, drop CliffCare a line cliffcare@vicclimb.org.au and we can go from there. It is up to us to try and prevent and manage issues before they become major but as they are generally in state and national parks, it is also about going about this in a more thoughtful way and working with the land managers.

This can be found here: https://cliffcare.org.au/about/education/tracks/

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Pre fire. Track near Stapylton Ampitheatre