Public Support May Reopen Williamson Rock

Posted on: October 6, 2009


Williamson Rock, Angeles National Forest, California, is home to more than 300 routes just north of Los Angeles. The area has been closed to climbers for nearly four years. However, the United States Forest Service recently released a draft proposal for public comment; if adopted, most of the climbing would reopen as soon as next year. [Photo] Troy Mayr

Williamson Rock, a crag with more than 300 sport routes just north of Los Angeles, may reopen with the support of climbers.

The National Forest Service closed the area in late December 2005 when studies indicated the surrounding area was critical habitat for the endangered Mountain yellow-legged frog.

The closure devastated climbers in the Southern California area, said Troy Mayr, president of Friends of Williamson Rock and prolific route developer there. Set in Angeles National Forest at ca. 6,700', Williamson Rock once offered the only nearby summer respite for climbers in the Los Angeles area.

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Since early 2006, climbers have been working with the Forest Service through a local advocacy group, Friends of Williamson Rock, and the Access Fund to develop plans that would mitigate human impact around the crag and reopen sections of climbing. Last year, climbers sent more than 500 endorsement letters to the local forest office, Mayr said. That support helped elevate the plan to the "forest level," thus prioritizing it for the superintendent who oversees Angeles National Forest.

The latest draft of the plan has been released as a public scoping letter, allowing climbers and other user groups to comment on the proposal. The proposed plan would reopen much of the climbing; however, areas adjacent to seasonal streambeds would remain off limits. These areas include London Wall, the original bolted area that contains a high density of hard climbs, and Stream Wall, a well-bolted beginner wall. The draft also calls for a new parking lot with facilities, fences to keep users on trail, improvements to the "long trail" and closure of the "short trail."

Steve Cox climbing in the Secret Garden Area at Williamson Rock. [Photo] Troy Mayr

Mayr and Brent Ware, board member of the Friends of Williamson Rock, are pleased with the current draft and optimistic that, with enough letters of support, the crag will reopen.

"[The Forest Service] came up with a pretty good compromise," Ware said. "It's the best deal we're going to get."

The public comment deadline is October 26, and both Friends of Williamson Rock and the Access Fund are encouraging all climbers to write in support the current proposal. Electronic letters can be sent to Forest Supervisor Jody Noiron and Williamson Rock ID Team member Darrell Vance through the Action Center on the Access Fund website.

"This is the chance for climbers to let their voices be heard," Mayr said. "And to let the agencies involved know that the climbing community wants this one-of-a-kind, valuable resource back."

Sources: Troy Mayr, Brent Ware, accessfund.org, www.fs.fed.us, williamsonrock.org

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