This past summer, the U.S. Forest Service started to seek public input on an upcoming climbing management plan for the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area, part of the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. The plan intends to cover management of some of the most outstanding trad and sport climbing opportunities in the mid-Atlantic region, including Seneca Rocks, Smoke Hole, and Reed’s Creek.
Some of the initial questions the Forest Service hoped to answer were:
- Why does the public value these climbing locations?
- What do we hope these climbing areas will look like 20 years from now?
- What issues could the Forest Service and the climbing community address to improve future climbing experiences?
As one of the local climbing organizations in the mid-Atlantic region, Mid Atlantic Climbers recognizes the value of hearing perspectives from community members as a part of our participation in this process. To that end, MAC developed a survey for area climbers to provide feedback, whether or not they were able to attend one of the Forest Service public workshops earlier this year.
122 climbers participated in the survey from September 13-October 2, 2020. You can view the full results here.
Climbers in the mid-Atlantic region value Seneca Rocks, Smoke Hole, Reed’s Creek, and other climbing opportunities in the Spruce Knobs-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area of the Monongahela National Forest due to the types of climbing available, natural features, and other reasons for enjoyment. Many respondents hope for their experiences to stay the same 20 years from now. However, most of their concerns are due to impacts of increasing crowds, such as trash and other waste management, erosion, insufficient parking and camping, and overall traffic.
The uniqueness of the type of climbing for the mid-Atlantic region really makes Seneca special for a lot of people, as well as the area’s beauty, wild nature, and accessibility. Survey respondents really wanted the area to stay the same, with trail and trash conditions maintained and/or improved. That being said, numerous people mentioned concerns about crowding, both on routes as well as rappels. Some comments suggested the need for additional rappel stations, others on bolt anchors for some pitches of routes.
For Smoke Hole, Reed’s Creek, and other nearby areas, a lot of respondents appreciated these places for offering sport climbing, as this is not something we have a lot of in the surrounding area. Ease of access and the quality of climbing was also mentioned. Looking to the future, the idea of it staying the same came up once again; though at the same time many people really want this area to grow and have more route development. Parking was identified as an issue by many survey participants. We received a somewhat mixed response, with some climbers appreciating the low-key/small crowd aspect of the areas and others who felt crowds were an issue.
MAC has delivered the survey results to the Forest Service as we await more information on the next steps in the process. The Forest Service intends to hold a second round of public workshops this fall, on dates yet to be determined, to discuss proposed solutions to the issues identified in the feedback the agency has received over the past few months.
We encourage all interested area climbers to attend the workshops when they are announced. If you would like to get more involved in MAC’s efforts around this climbing management plan, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay tuned for updates!