Delicate ecosystems should be protected

 In Letters, Opinion


Re: Climbing access in ‘protection areas’ granted without explanation, The Creemore Echo, Friday, Feb. 23, page 6, and We should all be concerned about lack of transparency, process, The Creemore Echo, Friday, March 1, page 4.

It is widely understood and acknowledged within the climbing community that there is not enough climbable rock in Southern Ontario to meet the demand of an ever-growing number of enthusiasts. The words and deeds of some climbers, and organizations such as the Ontario Alliance of Climbers (OAC), belie a very real sense of entitlement to develop as much as possible of that finite resource to meet surging demand for the sport. Up to this point permission or oversight has been completely optional, and routes continue to be developed with very little understanding or even consideration of the environmental impacts.

As a guest on a podcast, Gus Alexandropoulos, a prominent figure who helped first develop the routes in the swamp area of Metcalfe around 2004-2005, characterized developing routes as “making the sausage,” implying that climbers should not want to know what goes into the activity they enjoy. By his own recollection, the “cleaning” process includes, but is not limited to, “prying loose rock” with crowbars, “scrubbing vegetation” from rock faces, and clearing vegetation at the base with a chainsaw.

The initial 15-20 routes developed along Metcalfe Rock have since ballooned to over 150. This type of activity would be of concern outside of ANSI and World Biosphere reserves like the Niagara Escarpment, let alone in areas of globally significantnatural beauty.

In his 2013 “Brief Reconnaissance Life Science Inventory” of the Reinhold property adjacent to Devil’s Glen by ecologist Jarmo Jalava, he observed areas that had been stripped bare by climbing, and noted that due to “…the virtual absence of soil, rehabilitation of such habitats and regeneration of native vegetation, would take many decades, if not centuries, and is therefore likely an unrealistic management approach.” It was concluded that “the smooth cliff–break open cliff community is considered a provincially rare community type, and should be protected accordingly.”

One would hope the OAC was formed to regulate and manage climbing activity with full respect for the rare and delicate ecosystems the sport affects, and just not legitimize the careless and unchecked process that has defined its development to date. Given its campaigns to overwhelm elected representatives with letters, not to mention the apparent influence it has demonstrated over Ontario Parks in Devil’s Glen, the latter seems more likely.

Nick Clayton,

Blue Mountains.

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