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This document and subsequent site specific climbing management recommendations were developed in collaboration with representatives from the Access Fund, American Alpine Club, American Mountain Guides Association, Colorado Division of Wildlife, Colorado Mountain Club and the Jefferson County Open Space Climbing Committee. Members of the Jefferson County Open Space Climbing Committee include, Colleen Gadd, Frank Kunze, Jim Lile, Frank Marics, Ted Mische, Bryan Posthumus and Drew Sprafke.
Over the years, Jefferson County Open Space (JCOS) has acquired several historic climbing areas including Cathedral Spires, The Dome, Clear Creek Canyon, Mt. Lindo and North Table Mountain. This document was created to recognize rock climbing as a valid recreational use of Open Space and to provide guidelines for climbing management on all existing and future Open Space lands. From the guidelines and management actions set forth, site-specific climbing management plans will be created as a component of individual Park Management Plans*.
*Park Management Plans are available by calling the JCOS main office at 303-271-5925.
This Climbing Management Guide serves to provide guidelines to climbers and a spectrum of management options ranging from minimal management actions to more restrictive actions. The intent is to apply the least restrictive management action in order to maintain the climbing environment. Potential conflicts may occur as JCOS strives to protect natural resources while providing recreation opportunities. As a result, JCOS is obligated to err on the side of conservation, with protection of wildlife species and habitat a priority. JCOS supports Leave No Trace principles for all recreation activities and will manage uses to uphold those principles.
Current estimates of Americans participating in rock climbing and mountaineering for recreation range from 500,000 to over one million people in the United States alone. Since the early 1980s, the popularity of this sport has expanded significantly. The quality, diversity and concentration of rock climbing resources along Colorado’s Front Range has made this area one of the primary climbing destinations in North America. A large concentration of climbing enthusiasts lives in this area and thousands more travel here annually.
Headquartered along the Front Range are many of the largest and most influential organizations including the American Alpine Club (Golden), the Access Fund (Boulder), the American Mountain Guides Association (Boulder), the Colorado Mountain Club (Golden), and the Rocky Mountain Field Institute (Colorado Springs).
The dramatic cliff faces of Jefferson County Open Space have attracted recreational rock and ice climbers for many years with the first recorded rock climbs occurring in the late 1930s. Areas such as Cathedral Spires (Cynical Pinnacle), Mount Lindo (Lover's Leap), Clear Creek Canyon, and North Table Mountain (Golden Cliffs) are well known among climbers for their diverse, high-quality climbing.
The intent of climber guidelines and potential management actions is to ensure that climbing is done in a manner that is consistent with Open Space's responsibility to protect park resources. In general, there is one overall management value with regard to this balance; protecting sensitive resources is of higher priority than accommodating public use. The following are specific management objectives:
JCOS has developed an inventory system that will be used to create site-specific management plans for all climbing areas. Inventories consist of photo plots, data sheets and checklists. Monitoring of initial base information will be important when applying guidelines and actions. JCOS staff and climber representatives will work together to make recommendations to the Park Management Planning Teams to formulate site-specific climbing management plans for each park that has climbing resources. These climbing management plans will be developed to:
Educational programs such as Leave No Trace and stressing low-impact behaviors have the potential to reduce the overall impacts of any recreational use. The key is to enhance the users’ understanding of impacts associated with a particular recreational activity and to encourage practices that minimize impacts. Issues of sanitation in areas with no facilities, noise, personal behavior, etc. will be addressed. It is desired that responsible climbing behaviors are exhibited and passed on to newer climbers. Interpretive signs, website information, brochures, ranger patrols and volunteers will be included in this effort.
Currently, the following five areas receive the most significant use by both sport and traditional climbers. Other climbing and bouldering areas exist throughout the system; however, not to the extent that they require active management.
This area is comprised of numerous relatively short cliffs of difficult-to-protect gneiss and schist. The quality and quantity of climbing opportunities have made Clear Creek a popular area for the establishment of sport routes. Approximately 300 climbs have been established and identified as of 2005 on over 12 different rock formations. Additionally, two and sometimes three ice climbs form in winter and are frequently crowded. Small, but numerous pullouts on US6 provide parking and access to the river, as well as to the crags.
Lovers’ Leap is a prominent rock formation, located near the mouth of Turkey Creek Canyon, which boasts some of the longer climbs in Jefferson County as well as a winter ice-climbing route. This feature has long been utilized for climbing classes and practice outings. Mt. Lindo may be seasonally closed for raptor protection (nesting). No formal access is established but access is usually achieved by parking on the US 285 (right-of-way) and then bushwhacking to the cliff.
Currently, there is no legal public access to either Cathedral Spires or the Dome. Cathedral Spires Park, including the Dome, is surrounded by private property and access to the park may only be gained by seeking permission from private landowners. Jefferson County Open Space is pursuing opportunities to establish legal public access to the park as per the Cathedral Spires Park Management Plan.
This area (the South Platte Valley) is one of Colorado's destination climbing areas comprised of numerous fine-grained, granite domes and crags spread out over a vast area. The feature formation is the scenically dramatic Cathedral Spires (Cynical Pinnacle), which is partially on private property and is a climbing resource of national significance. The Cathedral Spires area and the Dome are both managed with seasonal closures for protection of peregrine falcons.
Located west of Lariat Loop Road in Golden above Windy Saddle, Crashed Car Crag is a small crag that is frequented by climbers for top-rope climbing. Access and parking are not contested issues as this area is within Windy Saddle Park.
The popular climbing areas are located on the southwest portion of the mesa. The Access Fund owns and maintains much of the climbing with adjacent opportunities on Jeffco Open Space as identified in the park management plan. Climbing is prohibited in the north area of the park, which is designated as a sensitive area.
Park management plans are created for all Jefferson County Open Space parks. Within the park management plan, visions are created that define overall use, natural, cultural and historical assets and management actions. Areas of parks may be designated as Parkland, Natural or Sensitive Management Units.
Parklands are generally areas that receive heavy use, requiring more infrastructure. Natural Areas are managed to maintain a natural setting while accommodating recreational use and sensitive areas allow restricted access due to a number of natural, cultural, historical issues, which may need additional protection in order to maintain their integrity. In areas that have been identified as sensitive, permanent closures to recreational activities exist to protect specific species, bio-diversity or the integrity of habitat or wildlife resources. In other areas, seasonal closures may exist for temporal concerns related to wildlife needs. The following are areas that have such closures:
A seasonal closure may be implemented for protection of Peregrine Falcon nesting sites. Typically, the closure runs from March 1, through July 31 annually. (See Cathedral Spires Park Management Plan)
The North Table Mountain Park Management Plan designates a section of the north cliffs as a Sensitive management area. This area includes several cliff-nesting sites and a fragile lichen rock garden (recommendation from Colorado Natural Heritage Program). The dense shrubland habitat also provides significant protective cover for other species, particularly mule deer.
The White Ranch Park Management Plan designates the Ralston Buttes section of the park as a Sensitive area, limiting public use. Approximately 700 acres contains a sensitive plant community, as ranked by the Natural Heritage Global Ranking (Type 2- rare and susceptible to becoming endangered). Additionally, the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW) ranked this area #1 of the top 5 areas within the Black Hawk District warranting protection.
The following are JCOS guidelines for climbers and potential management actions. The goal is to apply the least restrictive action to adequately mitigate identified impacts.
Rock climbing, along with other recreational activities, can pose environmental concerns including alterations to the natural environment, trail proliferation, human waste issues and natural resource impacts. To address these and other concerns in the context of park management plans, guidelines and potential management actions have been created for use in developing site-specific climbing management plans. This spectrum will be used to mitigate impacts to resources and address visitor safety and visitor experience issues. Based on the inventory and assessment process, the most appropriate action will be implemented to deal with a specific impact.
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