On their way to a gym near you.
Want to keep up to date with the management plan review and provide input? Register here at Engage Victoria. First step.
As announced on the 29th April, Parks Victoria will commence a review process of the Grampians National Park Management Plan in July 2019.
There will be a variety of opportunities to provide feedback over the review process and a Stakeholder Reference Group will soon be set in order to engage key stakeholders from the conservation, tourism and recreation sectors.
If you want to provide input make sure you register at Engage Victoria. Be informed and have your say.
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….
WANT TO PRINT THE POSTERS FOR DISPLAY?
Yesterday VCC/CliffCare representatives – Tracey Skinner (Access & Environment Officer), Philipp Hammes (VCC Vice President) and myself (Paula Toal, VCC President) – met with Simon Talbot and other Parks Victoria (PV) staff. The meeting was positive overall. PV outlined the consultative process for the development of the new Grampians National Park management plan which will have representation of the climbing community through a Stakeholder Reference Group (SRG) to facilitate the needs and rights of climbers to be protected in the new management plan and secure the legitimacy of climbing in the Grampians.
PV and the Grampians Access Working Group (GAWG is a working group of VCC/CliffCare) have been analysing spatial data to provide clarity as to which crags currently sit within Special Protection Areas (SPA) so that the climbing community has accurate information. The updated map and list of crags will be available soon, as we are only awaiting the PV analyst’s final cross-referencing of the data.
The VCC has taken legal steps to clarify the reasons for the existing bans as a means to understand on what legitimate and ethical basis we could seek to renegotiate access. We are anticipating the formal response to that legal request from Parks Victoria by the end of this week and PV confirmed that response is on track to meet that deadline.
We communicated to PV that we believe the essential next steps include that we have the opportunity to engage with them and Traditional Owners to understand and discuss the reasons for the SPAs and negotiate changes to those boundaries that allow access to our important world-class climbing areas. We also communicated the negative impact the SPA restrictions are having on visitation to the Grampians and crowding at open crags. We particularly highlighted that the loss of many more moderate grade climbing areas is particularly difficult. We spoke at some length about Summerday Valley and PV acknowledged the confusion about this area and asked for us to leave this issue with them for immediate internal consideration. We will follow up on next steps in this regard.
We agreed with PV to commence development of a joint communication strategy to ensure correct representation of the collaboration between the climbing community and PV and address the negative impressions that have been made by the reports in the mainstream media. Simon Talbot also advised that PV plans to disengage with the mainstream media to prevent further confusion and misrepresentation.
PV also shared an update on its activities including the three compliance weekends in the Grampians where rangers were brought in from across the state to undertake compliance activities in the park. PV indicated it spoke with more than 700 individuals and identified 67 offences, only a handful of which were attributed to climbers. The offences attributed to climbers included driving around a locked management gate, driving off track, improper disposal of toilet paper, removing vegetation, climbing in a SPA and an instance where three individuals were found climbing in one of the eight key focus sites which can attract a fine. PV indicated that as yet they have not issued any fines however they are still considering how best to deal with the specific infringement related to the focus sites.
The VCC feels strongly that the best way forward is through a positive collaboration with Parks Victoria and the Traditional Owners. A respectful dialogue between all parties will have the best outlook regarding climbing access in Victoria.
The VCC/Cliffcare and GAWG will continue to update the climbing community about further progress and has commenced a process to engage with other clubs and representatives of the climbing community to develop an effective structure to support representation on the Grampians National Park management plan Stakeholder Reference Group. If you have ideas and suggestions, please let us know.
There have been some recent conversations on social media in light of climber impacts and how the community could manage them as we move forward. Many of them make sense and have been used successfully in other parts of the world. We just need to take on board a few aspects not previously considered. And for the time being, hold off those brushes on buildup.
Chalk buildup and it’s removal is a hot topic on many social media forums. Advice I have received suggests that people do not undertake it at this present time. I have explained a little further below. There will be a time and place for this but let’s do it the right way.
Chalk use and its impact and the conversation around removal has been something that people feel is a very immediate action they could take. Stewardship has always been an integral focus of CliffCare and throughout the years have worked with land managers in this respect. Following a conversation on a social media group about a chalk cleanup, and wanting to further encourage stewardship in the community, I contacted the Rock Art Specialist in the Grampians a while ago to discuss the best way to go about this.
The Climbers method is scrubbing. Chalk buildup requires scrubbing. A lot of it. With water and maybe some kind of cleaning solution. The issue here is that what lies beneath the chalk could be sensitive be it cultural or environmental and the removal of the chalk buildup could cause damage. In a park like the Grampians which contains a lot of Cultural Heritage we need to take extra care. Conservation work that has taken place on these kind of impacts previously is a specialised process to ensure that further damage doesn’t occur in the removal.
There also isn’t enough known about the chemical impacts of chalk on either cultural heritage or environmental values. As we move into a space and a process of education and understanding, we need to take this on board. The conversation I had was a positive one. Those cleanups will need to be done but we do need to do it the right way and with the right skills. Let’s be involved in this in an informed way.
Stay tuned in this space. If anyone would like to be a head research guru in this area, drop me a line firstname.lastname@example.org
In the meantime, minimize your use of it and gently brush any residue so it doesn’t lead to buildup.
A short update on some GAWG activities and further information from Parks Victoria. They have sent us copies of maps that enlarge the northern end of SPAs and included legend and grid references. This has been created following feedback and were used this weekend to help engagement activity.
VCC/CliffCare have a meeting with Parks Victoria next week. We will be discussing the climbing data currently available, and next steps associated with establishing the reference group and the future of the Grampians National Park Management Plan. Parks Victoria and VCC/CliffCare are working together to share spatial information to help park users understand where climbing can and can’t occur. We will take this opportunity to question and discuss further the current closures in place and also follow up on our previous complaints about misinformation being put into the public sphere that adversely affects the reputation of the climbing community.
In the area of Cultural Heritage and Indigenous affairs – After initial contact with a number of Traditional Owner groups, we are working with our Reconcilliation advisor on next steps in this area. Once we have more substantive information we will share.
As always, we ask for your patience whilst we work through a multi layered process that requires thoughtful and respectful engagement.
Education. The launch of CliffCare’s educational campaign is just around the corner. This has been a long time in the making with many people offering their help. More on this soon.
Fundraising and Educational Awareness event. ClimbForGrampians May8 is a climber community initiative which CliffCare has been collaborating on with a number of gyms throughout Victoria and South Australia.
More on this on a separate post.
What do I need to know to climb in the Grampians this weekend?
Where can I climb?
All closures as noted previously are still in place.
Please respect all bans in place. Take a copy of the map that show the SPA’s.
Enforcement can occur at the following key focus sites
Little Hands Cave
Cave of Man Hands
There have been questions from the community regarding regarding signage around the key focus sites in locations that aren’t noted as key focus sites. Parks Victoria has provided the following information in response to my queries –
What is scope of the blue squares area? ie does it just apply to the actual cliff as noted The Gallery?
The blue dots indicate approximate locations where compliance activities will be occurring for rock climbing
What are the total number of signs pertaining to the 8 focus sites?
In total, there are 11 signs installed in the Victoria Range SPA to identify the eight key locations where enforcement activities are occurring.
Are there 2 signs in place at each sign installation site?
There is a minimum of one sign installed at each site. There are multiple entry points to some sites with some sites having lengthy approaches by walking. Where this is the case, additional signage has been installed. There are:
o Three signs at locations leading into Gondwanaland
o Three signs at locations leading into Manja Area
o Four signs at locations leading into The Gallery area
o One sign at Millennium
Does one of these signs at each installation site note the names of the key focus sites so that people are aware the fines only apply to those 8 focus sites?
The names of the key focus sites are detailed on the signs so that park users are aware where compliance activities are occurring.
What can I do to protect the environment and respect Aboriginal cultural heritage?
What should I do if I’m approached by a ranger?
Be an ambassador for climbing and stay friendly and curious about their concerns. Follow their directions.
What should I do if a ranger tells me to leave or asks my name and address?
Under law they are entitled to do both if they have reasonable grounds to do these things.
Ask for their reasons and comply with their requests
Ask for their name, repeatedly if necessary
Make a record of what happened and what was said. Get someone who was there to sign your it if possible
Let CliffCare know what happened and use Parks Victoria’s complaints process if you think you were wrongly told to move on or to identify yourself.