The following questions were either submitted prior to the meeting or asked during the meeting. The written answers below contain the essence of each answer but not the answer in its entirety. If you would like the more detailed answer or hear the full conversation, please use the time stamp indicated (i.e. 1:02) to find it in the video.
When everything shut down in March, it left all of us wondering what to do. Climbers, land managers, and advocates were all trying to figure out what it meant to climbing. The Access Fund began reaching out to get a sense of who was open or closed, what climbing areas were experiencing, and then started bringing regions together to help develop guidance. It was apparent that Eastern PA did not have a unified voice or a coalesced group to get this information from.
The purpose of EPAC is not to own these climbing areas or micro-manage them. We are not taking over existing efforts or groups. We want to provide an organizational framework so that we can all do more together. So every group or individual doing the same work we value doesn’t need to incorporate, get nonprofit status, file for exemption, get insurance, and so on.
This is definitely work that EPAC plans to take on in the future, but we don’t have insurance that would cover us for this type of work yet, and we also need to research policies. We’re still in the early phases of developing the organization, so we’re not operating on this level yet.
It’s big issues like this one that prompted the creation of EPAC though, so we will be moving in this direction. As climbers, we’re much stronger as an organization, and bolt and hardware maintenance is a great example of how EPAC will be able to use this strength to support the climbing community.
Although many of us don’t personally feel this tension, many of us have certainly witnessed or experienced it. Personally, we love the opportunities we’ve had at the crag to both learn from more experienced climbers as well as mentor younger climbers. We think one of the most powerful things we can do as a group is empower our experienced climbers to help guide and mentor the next generation. By cultivating mentorship and educational experiences, we can help preserve the cultural and ethical values of our local communities.
From an EPAC standpoint, we don’t have anything like this in place at the moment. It is certainly something we can consider in future planning. In the short term, wherever you are looking to climb, there is probably a community, group, or meetup already in existence so it is just a matter of finding them. It may be a little difficult right with so many events being cancelled due to COVID but there is still a welcoming community of climbers out there. We will be listing events sponsored by both EPAC or other LCOs.
Right now the best thing gyms can do is make their climbers and staff aware of EPAC, and educate them about the work we will be doing for the community. You can use any media and platforms you have available to help spread the word, share our posts, and educate climbers. Down the road, we will be offering partnership and outreach programs that can be run through the gyms.
Of course we don’t have all of the answers for this. It’s important to us as EPAC, but also to each of us personally. At the very start of EPAC we took interim roles. We believe that so much of the change we need to see is structural in nature. One of the first decisions we made as a group was to build a community beyond ourselves and to build a diverse organization starting with our leadership. We are ready to step aside and take supporting roles. We believe that this is a powerful starting point. We believe that this diverse leadership team will have the collective experience and knowledge to help everyone feel welcome in our climbing community.
In addition to this, we will be supported by a contact at Access Fund who works with LCOs across the country guiding them to become more diverse. We will continue to educate ourselves in specific ways to diversify EPAC.
One of our core values is to preserve and restore our climbing lands, so we want to be available to help out at any area needing help in Eastern PA. Our boundaries will be fairly loose, and no area is too big or too small. We will help where help is needed, and where there is a desire to get involved. One of the most exciting ideas we talked about was having “area ambassadors”, where we can connect with and empower the local stewards at each crag. They know their crags better than anyone else, and we will be there to provide as much support as possible
Preservation is absolutely part of our mission. Our goal is to work with local climbing groups and organizations to take care of our climbing areas, including graffiti and trash. We recognize doing this kind of work would be with best intentions, but we need to secure permission from land managers and work within the system they choose to operate, especially when using chemicals. Plant life, even poison ivy and weeds are a bit different than human made damage. As much as we all hate poison ivy, we want to preserve our climbing areas in the most natural state possible, which usually means leaving native plants, including poison ivy. The exception for this generally would be when maintaining climbs. So, again if land managers want our help, we will work with them to create a plan. We have found that once a good relationship is established then getting work done is not an issue. The Haycock Bouldering Coalition graffiti clean-up summer series is a great example of a local organization working with a land manager to create a solution.
Absolutely. Recognizing that the lands we climb on are part of a greater ecosystem as well as multiple user groups is essential. Oftentimes there are other like minded groups doing similar work and we want to connect with them. For example, working with the Lower Delaware Wild & Scenic River Management Council may seem a bit out of place on the surface but they have interest in preserving the Tohickon Creek as well as how the I-80 rock fall mitigation plan is progressing.
This is important to us as a group and also as individuals. We made a concerted effort to invite as many people as we could. We reached out to organizations, affinity groups, and gyms. We were hoping for a much larger turnout. As a group we will need to rethink and keep trying. Our goal continues to be finding a diverse leadership team. We believe the change needs to be from the top down. This was our first attempt, and clearly we have some room to improve. There are a lot of decisions we haven’t made yet because we are waiting for our team after the elections in November. When we select our new leadership we will continue to work on this. It would be really helpful for community members to help us with this. Please spread the word. Please give us feedback.
We need to get the word out there and find our most qualified individuals to take leadership roles. As we mentioned, our roles are interim roles. We want to make sure that the best leaders are in place and that our leadership is diverse. So, please spread the word. We want to make sure in December no one says “I never heard of that, I didn’t know that was coming”. We want to make sure that everyone gets an opportunity to get involved. So, please spread the word about this exciting new organization. Please also take the time to give us feedback or share ideas. You can contact us through our website, through email or if we run into you out climbing. We’re also looking for feedback on where help is needed. Figuring out who those people are who are already doing work at crags so we can connect the dots would be really helpful.
We’ve set a one year terms for leadership and board of directors. We are currently doing interim positions through November. If needed we can extend that. We would like to keep these interim positions as minimal as possible and give others the opportunity to take our places.
Board members will elect the new board. Board members are able to step down to make room for new members. We can also vote to expand our board and add members.
We currently have a president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary. We have five other board members. Currently, officers are also board members
Unfortunately we have dealt with this a lot in Eastern Pennsylvania. We don’t have a great answer for how to stop it, but we need to stay on top of it. We need the community to be reporting it. A good place to report that would be to EPAC. We need to be aware that it is happening and aware as soon as possible so we can take quick action. The Haycock Bouldering Coalition is a good example. There was a summer graffiti cleanup series. During the cleanup series, new graffiti was being added, but it was a continual series and we stayed on top of it. New graffiti was removed within days of being reported. We seem to have quelled any new graffiti, at least for the time being. The timing is important – It needs to be reported to someone who can respond quickly.
We know there has been active bolting at Tilbury and people are concerned. The land is not being managed. We are not equipped to handle that yet, but, it’s on our radar. Tilbury is also on the radar with The Access Fund, and contacts have been made. Discussions have started. It is on State Forest land. Some folks may or may not know that there are actual climbing management protocols that have been written up, and policy that should be followed properly.