The surreal scene at Boulder Canyon’s Castle Rock on Friday was like the setup for a punch line.
Thirty-odd climbers and half a dozen Boulder County workers — including cops in uniform — worked side-by-side to stabilize erosion, erase graffiti and clean up trash. Historically, climbers and the county have butted heads on land-use issues, so their overt cooperation was almost comical.
“The land managers aren’t our enemies,” laughed Roger Briggs, longtime Boulder climbing pioneer and founder of the Boulder Climbing Community. “We all have similar goals.”
One goal of the BCC is to facilitate civil discussions and consensus building on how to best care for Eldorado Canyon, the Flatirons and Boulder Canyon.
Just over a year ago, Briggs met with 15 influential Boulder climbers to discuss his idea for the BCC. Initially, Briggs wanted “some kind of communication structure” among local climbers. It began with an e-mail list, but since April 2010, the BCC has become an umbrella organization that supports and enhances existing groups such as the Flatirons Climbing Council and the Action Committee for Eldorado.
“And where there are holes, like in Boulder Canyon, we take over,” Briggs said.
Right now, the BCC is taking on an important — if not enormous — task that will benefit Boulder Canyon, its climbers and all its user groups for years to come. The BCC is trying to coordinate Boulder Canyon’s land managers, recreation groups and private property owners in an effort to preserve and care for the environment.
The problem is that Boulder Canyon is a perplexing patchwork of landowners, land managers and recreation groups, several of which have competing interests. Here’s what I mean: Boulder Canyon is owned and managed jointly by the U.S. Forest Service, Boulder County, the city of Boulder, the Colorado Department of Transportation and private individuals. Most of the climbing is on Forest Service land, but some crags, such as the Bowling Alley, are owned by three different agencies.
“My dream is to have cooperation between these agencies and to make Boulder Canyon a better place for everyone, not just climbers,” Briggs said.
With tremendous support from the Access Fund, a Boulder-based organization that preserves access to U.S. climbing areas, the BCC is in the process of becoming a nonprofit organization.
“But right now,” Briggs said, “we’re just running on good energy and people’s spirits.”
So far, it’s working.
The BCC was recently awarded a grant from the Colorado Mountain Club to help put together specific proposals for trail design in Boulder Canyon. The crux is the Forest Service, which must deal with lengthy studies and permit processes before any official trail work or maintenance is begun.
“The Forest Service is interested in the idea of cooperation and stewardship, but they are constrained by their own administrative challenges,” said Joe Sambataro, access director at the Access Fund. “We are hopeful that the Forest Service will make this a high priority for us to move forward.”
Working with Boulder County at the Castle Rock Cleanup was an important first step for the BCC. Both Briggs and Sambataro hope that the cleanup will not only set a precedent for future stewardship events but will serve as an example to the Forest Service of the kind of relationship that can exist between climbers and land managers.
“It blows my mind how great the county is to work with,” Briggs said.
Thanks to Briggs and the BCC, events like Friday’s Castle Rock Cleanup will continue to encourage competing interest groups to work together to improve Boulder Canyon.
Everyone can be involved in the BCC and the future of Boulder Canyon.
“It’s all about inclusiveness and working together,” Briggs said. “I want the public to know that climbers are good stewards.”