Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Gold Bar Access Update

I attended the DNR Access meeting two weeks ago, and there was a decent climber turnout. We had six people there, and were the second-best-represented user group (to ORV users). The meeting was a frank and open discussion about which areas will be open to motorized use, which will be open for non-motorized uses, and how DNR plans to balance user groups within each area. Erik Hirst posted a detailed write-up of the meeting on RCNW.net.

DNR plans to open the motorized areas to ORVs on June 20, 2010. The good news is that the road up to the clearcut is generally within the non-motorized use area. Unfortunately, this is also the bad news.

The Clearcut

DNR's Reiter Foothills Area extends along the North side of the Sky Valley from Wallace Falls State Park to the top of the Index Town Wall. The bulk of Gold Bar's bouldering is North (uphill) of the Reiter Foothills Area, on private land owned by Manke Timber company. Manke Timber has expressed their approval of climbers' use of the area, but the road to the clearcut traverses about a mile of DNR land before hitting private property. Because DNR faces many contentious user group issues within the Reiter Foothills Area, and because climbers are just a small blip on the state's radar, providing climbers with access to private property is not a high priority for DNR.

DNR's current plan is to keep the dirt road closed at Reiter Road and place a non-motorized trailhead at the Reiter Pit. This would mean that we would be hiking to the clearcut. An alternative plan would be for DNR to place the trailhead just past the powerlines, where the May Creek Road and the road to the clearcut diverge. If DNR doesn't block the road to the clearcut, we could drive up the hill. Given the ORV community's poor history of complying with rules in the Reiter area, however, DNR may see this alternative as an invitation to off-roaders to 'poach' the road to the clearcut. With some good advocacy and persistence, hopefully climbers will be able to convince the state of the merits of this idea: climbers would get access to a unique and regionally important resource, and could assist with enforcement efforts in the area, and the timber company could exercise their legal easement to access their property.

Thanks to everyone for their interest, and to the couple of NW Granite readers who showed their willingness to be involved in this process. One of our next steps will be to write a letter to officials higher up in the state administration asking them to kindly recognize our interest in the area. I'll continue to post updates here, as well as any action items that come up as we move forward.

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