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Canada to Form National Climbing Access Group

The logo of the National Climbers’ Access Initiative, a nascent group that aims to centralize Canadian climbing access concerns–without disbanding existing local groups–and lobby more effectively with a larger, unified voice.

In an initiative proposed last summer by Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) and Gripped magazine, several climbing communities throughout Canada held meetings in 2007 to discuss the formation of a nationwide access group: the National Climbers’ Access Initiative (NCAI). It is the hope of the project’s founders that a national access community, comprised of established groups working together within a larger structure, will foster better communication of access issues and enable greater leverage in the preservation of climbing areas. A three-year trial project, financed by MEC, began in December 2007 to build a functioning group structure and to spearhead goals.

Threats to climbing access in Canada recently have been underscored by potential closures of some of the nation’s most notable areas: Skaha’s parking lot making way for a winery; vehicle access at Ghost River compromised by off-roaders; Lions Head facing closure with its incorporation into a national park. These are the more conspicuous battles being fought by Canadian climbing communities. The concept for NCAI, and the resulting trial project, originated from these struggles coming to a head.

The NCAI was an idea developed from a July 2007 meeting in Vancouver. There, established access communities gathered to discuss barriers to a united front, such as fracturing of limited funding available to non-profits and potential conflicts in ideology and execution. Nevertheless, the closing sentiment of the meetings was that a large, nationwide access group could serve the smaller climbing communities more effectively. “The concept of a national access organization has been kicked around before, most recently when Sam Lightner initiated some discussion when he was in Canada a few years back,” NCAI chairman Jamie McVicar said. “The NCAI is the first funded initiative tasked with making a comprehensive and broad-based investigation into the desire for a national body and, if warranted, what form that would take.” Gripped editor David Chaundy-Smart added that “[The NCAI] is dedicated to conserving and enhancing the Canadian climbing experience by creating opportunities for climbers to work together on access at a national level.”

Chaundy-Smart asserts that the primary advantage of a collective effort is to pool information and resources into a larger and ultimately more influential preservation group. Beyond NCAI’s aim to bring awareness to the challenges being faced by the Canadian communities, the nascent organization hopes to publicize their successes effectively, hopefully increasing interest and revenue.

The proposal for the NCAI was submitted to MEC in early December 2007 and approved by mid-month. Throughout the next two years NCAI plans to hold events in conjunction with other grassroots groups to collect information about topics of interest and to structure the national group to better serve those needs. “We are convinced,” Chaundy-Smart said, “that local activism can be enhanced by a strong and unified national voice.”

Alpinist will post updates on the development of the NCAI.

Sources: Jamie McVicar, Erin Melnychuk, David Chaundy-Smart