Drawing on the success realized by a small, Joshua Tree National Park-focused, grassroots organization, Boulder Clean, the Access Fund has announced plans to launch a new program tentatively called Bouldering Initiative. The intent of Bouldering Initiative is to positively address the rapidly increasing number of bouldering participants and the resultant impacts on the environment and the potential access issues.
"The idea is one that existed before I became the executive director," Steve Matous of the Access Fund told SNEWSÂ®. "All we are doing is reactivating it with new energy and focus with the ultimate goal of working with land managers and the public across the nation to create an ethic among the bouldering community that protects the land, respects the land owners and, as a result, protects access."
In addition to educating climbers and land-use managers about bouldering and its potential environmental impacts, the initiative is intended to unify local and regional awareness efforts under a national initiative to strengthen the movement and give it a solid voice.
Reaching out to the bouldering community will require a little adjustment from the traditionalists, it seems. While there is little debate that the growth in bouldering is being driven currently by the Mountain Dew crowd, the younger climbers we have spoken with tell us they see the older climbing community, and the Access Fund in particular, as just that -- older and out of touch.
Matous doesn't disagree with the perception, and says it is the challenge facing the Access Fund to make itself and the association's ethics and responsibility relevant to younger climbers.
"We have to pull new ideas and resources together to make this happen for all ages of the bouldering community," said Matous. "There are plenty of inspirational younger climbers who are asking us to help connect with the younger generation, including climbers as well recognized as Tommy Caldwell."
All members of the climbing industry, including retailers, manufacturers and athletes, are encouraged to attend an 8 a.m. breakfast meeting at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market on Sunday, Feb. 1, in room 256B at the Salt Palace Convention Center. The meeting will introduce Bouldering Initiative and unite members of the climbing industry to exchange ideas and develop the final, cohesive strategy for the Initiative.
SNEWS View: Boulder Clean will certainly give the Access Fund a lesson about reaching youth, we hope. The bouldering culture has established itself as youthful, energetic and iconoclastic, making grassroots awareness efforts particularly effective. The Boulder Clean project in Joshua Tree, Calif., already sponsors discussion groups with boulderers and park officials and provides educational printed materials to increase environmental awareness among boulderers. Its ties to vendors such as Prana, and the program's high profile among boulderers at Joshua Tree make Boulder Clean a program that could be implemented at any bouldering site nationwide. Trouble is, it is too tiny an organization to make such a grand vision work. We would hope that the Access Fund would embrace the Boulder Clean experience and success working with youthful climbers and implement huge doses of the group's youthful style into the Bouldering Initiative. Reaching access managers is one thing, and no doubt the Access Fund is very, very good at that. Talking to youth AND getting them to listen and care is something Boulder Clean has managed to figure out, but the Access Fund could use a few lessons. Working together, with the full support of the manufacturing community, the Bouldering Initiative should have legs and become a program that puts the Access Fund on the map with the youth, and takes the bouldering community off the black list with land owners and managers.