Mid Atlantic Climbers and Access Fund respond to new climbing closures and restrictions at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

A rock outcrop that is now closed to climbing under new park regulations. Credit: John Kelbel

On Monday, July 9, Mid Atlantic Climbers (MAC) and Access Fund (AF) sent a letter to express our disappointment in Harpers Ferry National Historical Park’s June 2017 Superintendent’s Compendium, Section 13 that lists rock climbing access closures and restrictions. The letter also requested that Harpers Ferry retract Section 13 and initiate a transparent, collaborative process to determine a management strategy that integrates National Park Service (NPS) climbing management best practices that allow new and historic rock climbing activities while protecting park resources, NPS staff, and park visitors.

Mid Atlantic Climbers has worked in partnership with Harpers Ferry since 2014, including planning 3 volunteer events, educating the climbing community about seasonal closures for raptor nesting, and acting as a resource for the park in regard to climbing practices and management. The climbing community has an excellent history of compliance with park regulations and MAC has effectively helped the park with several climbing-related issues.

It is because of our longstanding commitment to working collaboratively with park staff that we were disheartened to learn in the spring of 2018 of climbing management changes, which include the closure of all rock climbing and bouldering activities in the Virginia and West Virginia sections of the park. These restrictions were issued without consideration of stakeholder input and without consultation with local and national climbing organizations, and in breach of ongoing discussions between MAC, AF, and NPS staff about a future climbing management plan for the park.

MAC and AF remain committed to working with Harpers Ferry to develop policies that are in alignment with NPS climbing management best practices. MAC will keep the local climbing community updated as progress is made, and if there are future opportunities for public input. We thank you for your support, which allows us to effectively advocate for climbing access in the Mid Atlantic region.