Garrett Mitchell: Western Colorado Climbers Coalition

Western Colorado Climbers Coalition

WCCC or West­ern Col­orado Climbers Coali­tion is a non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tion that was cre­at­ed to rep­re­sent climbers through­out West­ern Col­orado. Not only does WCCC cre­ate mutu­al meet­ing grounds for climbers, but in recent efforts, they’ve been work­ing to pro­tect land areas from pri­vate investors to ensure that climbers will be able to enjoy these areas for years to come. WCCC has been work­ing to buy the prop­er­ty in the amaz­ing gran­ite val­ley of Unaweep Canyon. Unaweep Canyon is a melt­ing pot of gran­ite and sand­stone crags that pro­vide unlim­it­ed poten­tial for new climbs. The impor­tance of this issue boils down to the fact that if the prop­er­ty were sold to a pri­vate per­son, climbers would be pro­hib­it­ed from enjoy­ing this nat­ur­al wonder.

Car­olyn Dean: What is WCCC and what is its mis­sion?
Gar­rett Mitchell:
The West­ern Col­orado Climbers’ Coali­tion is a non­prof­it 501c(3) rep­re­sent­ing the Grand Val­ley climb­ing and is ded­i­cat­ed to pre­serv­ing access to West­ern Col­orado’s climb­ing areas through land stew­ard­ship, edu­ca­tion, and land use advocacy.

CD: How was WCCC estab­lished?
GM: In 2008 one of our local crags in Unaweep Canyon was being sold. The Access Fund approached our com­mu­ni­ty, instill­ing the need for local rep­re­sen­ta­tion of climbers. With their guid­ance and help we start­ed the process­es towards becom­ing non­prof­it and attempt­ing to pur­chase the threat­ened crag.  By the next year we had gained approval to be non­prof­it and were under con­tract to secure the climb­ing and plan a bet­ter trail and park­ing area.

CD: How did WCCC first get involved in pre­serv­ing Unaweep Canyon & what secu­ri­ty has this giv­en for west­ern Col­orado climbers?
GM: In 2009 we were able to secure an endan­gered piece of land that was slat­ed to be sold off. We then sub­di­vide enough land that would include the cliff, trail, and park­ing lot.  This land is now pro­tect­ed in per­pe­tu­ity. Even if the WCCC were to dis­solve, we have made ade­quate pre­cau­tions to ensure that the land will con­tin­ue to be in the peo­ples’ hands.

WCCCCD: What are some of the activ­i­ties that WCCC has pre­formed in Unaweep Canyon?
GM: We have worked with both pri­vate and pub­lic land owners/managers to nego­ti­ate access. This can include the pur­chase and/or ease­ment of cliffs. We have cre­at­ed a suit­able park­ing lot for areas to lessen con­ges­tion along the high­way through the canyon. We have mul­ti­ple trail days through­out the year that amass the com­mu­ni­ty and take care of the land that we use reg­u­lar­ly. With the help of the ASCA (Amer­i­can Safe Climb­ing Asso­ci­a­tion) we have replaced hun­dreds of dete­ri­o­rat­ed bolts and anchors through­out the canyon with stain­less steel hard­ware that will last a very long time. We have been the con­duit between land man­agers and climbers to cre­ate a pro­fes­sion­al and pos­i­tive rela­tion­ship that has allowed and con­tin­ued access. 

CD: How was WCCC able to pur­chase Moth­er But­tress?
GM: We were for­tu­nate enough to facil­i­tate the pur­chase of the land to a sym­pa­thet­ic par­ty, the Peter­sons from Gun­ni­son, CO; they then agreed to sub­di­vide a large chunk of it for pur­chase. We were able to raise enough mon­ey to pur­chase the sub­di­vid­ed land. Much of the funds raised came from the com­mu­ni­ty and the Access Fund. Orga­ni­za­tions such as NOLS and Out­ward Bound also helped out with donations.

CD: What is the Access Fund and why impor­tance does it have to WCCC?
GM: From the Access Fund’s web­site, “The Access Fund is the nation­al advo­ca­cy orga­ni­za­tion that keeps U.S. climb­ing areas open and con­serves the climb­ing envi­ron­ment. Found­ed in 1991, the Access Fund sup­ports and rep­re­sents over 2.3 mil­lion climbers nation­wide in all forms of climb­ing: rock, ice, moun­taineer­ing, and boul­der­ing.” Unaweep holds a spe­cial place in the Access Fund’s his­to­ry. The already pre­served Sun­day Wall area with­in the canyon was the first pur­chase ever made by the orga­ni­za­tion in ear­ly ‘90’s.  It was through their mon­u­men­tal help that we were able to pur­chase the Moth­ers’ But­tress­es.  We con­tin­ue work­ing with them con­stant­ly on on-going projects in the area try­ing to pro­cure more land and secure access. 

Access Fund and why importance does it have to WCCC

CD: Who are board mem­bers of the WCCC and what was their sig­nif­i­cance in cre­at­ing the Coali­tion?
GM: The WCCC has a board of 7:  Rob Pizem, Matt Lisen­by, Ran­dall Chap­man, Mark Ken­ney, Gar­rett Mitchell, Eve Tall­man, and Jesse Zach­er. They meet reg­u­lar­ly to work on many projects through­out the Grand Val­ley. They all have giv­en much of their time to help keep the WCCC in action.

CD: WCCC is a non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tion what does that mean to WCCC and how does it cre­ate advan­tages and dis­ad­van­tages?
GM: Being a non­prof­it we are able to afford land hold­ings and chan­nel dona­tions towards our cause appro­pri­ate­ly. We are held to fed­er­al stan­dards that are respect­ed by many insti­tu­tions and orga­ni­za­tions. Being a 501c(3) adds legit­i­ma­cy to our efforts and allows us to act more effec­tive­ly as stew­ards for the land on which we recreate.

CD: Are there any upcom­ing projects for the WCCC?
GM: We are cur­rent­ly in the midst of try­ing to fig­ure out our options for try­ing to secure yet anoth­er large chunk of Unaweep that is up for sale. Cur­rent­ly three walls: Tele­vi­sion, Low­er Moth­ers, and Cave But­tress are under threat of being sold off. These walls are closed to all climb­ing by the own­er until it has been sold. The amount of mon­ey for the prop­er­ty is much too high for us to pur­chase alone. We are look­ing for a third par­ty to help us by fill­ing the same role as the Peter­sons in our last land pur­chase. We are spread­ing the word to any­one who is inter­est­ed in pur­chas­ing prop­er­ty in Unaweep. We have the abil­i­ty to cre­ate and pay for the sub­di­vi­sion of the cliff once it has been pur­chased. We then could the cliff line from pos­si­ble buy­er.  We already have a trail sys­tem and park­ing lot to sup­port this area. There could be ben­e­fi­cial tax deduc­tions through this process.  If we are not able influ­ence the pur­chase of this land, the fate of access lays in the uncer­tain hands of the future unknown purchaser.