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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Franklin Gorge, WV

Climbing friends:

I know that many of you have enjoyed climbing at Franklin Gorge in Franklin, WV. Sunny climbs, plentiful jugs, and a cool location have made this a climbing destination for decades.

But were you aware that you were climbing on private property, or that the Access Fund has made no attempt to actually establish an agreement with the owners to ensure continued climbing there? 

Despite the appearance of new "No Trespassing" signs, the Regional Access Coordinator and the Mid Atlantic Climbing Coalition still do not discourage climbers from going to Franklin; MACC does state that "access is sensitive"; since when has a "No Trespassing" sign been anything except a landowner's posted wish for the public to stay off their land?

Ignoring these signs increases traffic on a worn-out road and continues the problem of congested parking, leading the property owners and West Virginia Department of Highways to discuss ideas about gating off River Road just beyond Kemper's Store.

That's right, the road could be gated off a mile or so from the crags, where there is far less parking, potentially leading to more problems with other landowners on whose land climbers will be parking, which could lead the landowners finally just banning us from the crags.

Luckily, local climbers and route developers familiar with the situation (and the Access Fund's interesting choice of priorities) have sent out a heads-up. 

Access is in jeopardy, and while there is a ton of good rock in nearby Smoke Hole, it would be a shame to lose the good will of local landowners and further sully the reputation of climbing while watching this crag slip through our fingers because of advocate apathy, as was the case at Champe and Nelson Rocks.

The Access Fund needs to be inundated with local area members asking why MACC and the Regional Coordinator have left this on the back burner for almost eight years. 

There hasn't been a trail work event since July of 2009; that event was organized by local climbers (namely: me), not the Access Fund, even though many, many of their members visit this crag. In  fact, the AF hasn't sponsored or organized a trail event in this region, outside Seneca Rocks, where volunteers have to maintain the trails used by the Regional Coordinator and his guides. 

The Fund should be asked to respectfully and responsibly contact the owners to open up dialogue, with a goal of ensuring access, establishing standards they will expect their members to hold up to while on this private land, and arrange for regular trail work events.

So, long story condensed: please, contact the access fund (https://www.accessfund.org/take-action/report-an-access-issue, https://www.accessfund.org/contact-us).
On a similar note, I know some of you have been using and enjoying the rakkup guides we put out for crags in Smoke Hole. 

Wouldn't it be great to have one for Franklin? 

The Falcon guide is out of date and some information is wrong, it's now impossible to find one of the original Climbers' Guides to Smoke Hole, and mountain project is really just a plagiarized illegal supplement. 

The good folks at rakkup.com and your humble author could produce a digital guide for the 100+ routes at Franklin in fairly short order, but we cannot in all good conscience do so before access is secured and the property owners are on board with the plan.

Towards that end, I pledge to donate half of my profits from any rakkup guide for Franklin Gorge to supporting trail work, bolt and anchor replacement and future access efforts.

The ball is in your court, climbers: protect access and call on your advocates to back up their mission statement with action, so that we can all continue to enjoy the great climbs of Franklin for generations to come.

Climb on!

Michael Gray

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