2019 Cornerstone Conservation Grant Winners Announced

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The American Alpine Club (AAC) is proud to announce the recipients of the 2019 Cornerstone Conservation Grants, powered by REI. Our Cornerstone Grants support our vision of healthy climbing landscapes with annual awards to organizations, landowners, and individuals to fund projects such as human waste solutions, climbing trail restoration, and related infrastructure projects. This year, the committee reviewed a large number of well-qualified applications. They were heartened by the breadth of conservation projects planned across the country, and we continue to encourage local climbers to give back in a meaningful way, on a local level.

A big thanks to our corporate partners and to our Cornerstone Conservation Grant Committee members (listed below). Congratulations to our 2019 Cornerstone recipients:

Rumney Climbers Association
Rumney Rocks, Rumney, New Hampshire

By stepping up to address the environmental stewardship needs identified by the US Forest Service, the Rumney Climbers Association is helping to ensure that the climbing resources at Rumney remain open and accessible to current and future visitors. If conditions were to continue to degrade and the USFS was unable to adequately address these issues, there is a very real possibility that some sites could be closed or access severely restricted to mitigate climber impacts. The proposed work will ensure that the natural environment remains intact, allowing future visitors to experience Rumney as the beautiful outdoor climbing destination that it is renowned for. 

Methow Valley Climbers (Methow Chapter of the Washington Climbers Coalition)

Upper Methow Valley, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Washington

Methow Valley Climbers will use the funds to improve the infrastructure at the local, very popular, Fun Rock climbing area. Recreational rock climbing use of the cliffs and trails at Fun Rock began in the 1980's and has increased exponentially over the years. The area sees high use from March through the fall and has seen degradation of the user built platforms and trails, leading to reduced safety and poor flow of traffic. Local climbers have, over the years, built and maintained the landing areas, using whatever material was easily obtained, but have not been able to keep up with the huge numbers the area now sees. The greatest concerns are safety for the users and environmental damage to the fragile, unconsolidated soil and struggling plants.

Red River Gorge Climbers’ Coalition

Bald Rock Recreational Preserve, Red River Gorge, Kentucky

The RRGCC has new crag development underway at a location five minutes from one of our parking lots. We predict this to be a high traffic area, as it is full of moderates and development continues. We aim to build sustainable staging areas and trails more quickly to prevent unnecessary damage to the ecology of the area. The Cornerstone Grant will greatly help the RRGCC achieve sustainable development and mitigate heavy impact in what is sure to be a popular area.

New River Alliance of Climbers

New River Gorge and Fayette County, West Virginia

The proposed project will remediate the extensive damage at the Bridge Buttress area caused by many years of heavy use by climbers. The plan is to crib staging areas with timber and rock to create a series of connected flats that will slow runoff and put a stop to the continuous erosion and loss of vegetation. Grade improvements will connect the approach staircase to the stone staircase leading to the top of the crag and to the Layback area, climber's right of the main buttress. This project will also create initial recreational infrastructure in the newly purchased and established Needleseye Park, a municipal climbing resource in the City of Oak Hill, WV.

Northwest Montana Climbers’ Coalition

Stone Hill, Kootenai National Forest, Montana

Stone Hill is home to more than 500 climbing routes, many of which were developed without adequate trail establishment. The Stone Hill Trail Network Project will bring together land managers, climbers and volunteers to establish well-built trails and signage, significantly improving access to these beloved routes and making them easier to approach. Trail planning will be directed by the USDA Forest Service, and trail building will be done by groups of volunteers over a series of organized trail days in the next two seasons. Trail days will be an opportunity for the community to network and learn about sustainability and climbing area stewardship. The quality trails the community builds will improve sustainability by mitigating trampling and erosion on the steep slopes around the area, and encourage climbers to spread out and explore the classic, lesser known crags of Stone Hill.

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Forbes State Forest, Pennsylvania

Forbes State Forest boasts numerous recreational opportunities for visitors, among these climbing is a popular activity. Both Beam Rocks and Cove Rocks are heavily trafficked areas for climbers, hikers, and other recreational pursuits throughout the state forest. Due to the popularity of these areas, they are an unfortunate target for vandalism, including graffiti. For the past four years, Forbes State Forest has partnered with volunteers (Southwestern PA Climbers Coalition, Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation) to regularly remove graffiti from these locations. The funds from this grant will equip volunteers with the tools and materials to remove graffiti on a bi-yearly basis. 

Carolina Climbers Coalition

Table Rock State Park, Pickens, South Carolina

The Carolina Climbers Coalition (CCC) will use funds to build approximately 1.9 miles of trail leading to a never been open cliff called Pumpkintown. Currently an old logging road exists going up the escarpment for about 1 mile. This logging road does not reach the cliff base, which is the remaining 0.9 miles. The CCC will undergo phase 1 of trail construction, which is clearing the corridor for machine cutting and bench cutting by hand necessary spots. Opening of this new cliff is contingent upon an approach trail being built. 

AAC Cornerstone Conservation Grant Selection Committee:

Rob Abramowitz, Audrey Todd Borisov, Elisabeth Bowers, Eddie Espinosa, Emily Hendrick, Matt Hepp, Ryan Kuehn, Jay Parks, Joe Sambataro, Jenna Winkler

Photo courtesy of Methow Valley Climbers (Methow Chapter of the Washington Climbers Coalition)