On Tuesday this week various members of the climbing community, including representatives of the Victorian Climbing Club, Western Victoria Climbing Club and others, met with Parks Victoria. There we were informed that eight areas in the western Grampians are going to be closed to climbers. In the next two weeks, signs will be put at the closed areas and the closures will be policed with fines.
We were not given the specifics of what areas are to be closed or the extent of the closures, but we were told that information would be passed on to us in the next 48 hours (which would be today). While we were not given specifics, we can be fairly certain that the areas will primarily be in the Victoria Range and will encompass many of the best crags in the Grampians.
We were told that Parks has been compelled to issue the bans because Aboriginal Victoria has accused them of not doing enough to protect cultural sites. Aboriginal Victoria has the ability to place substantial fines on Parks Victoria if they fail to protect cultural sites, and there are ongoing concerns about climbers and boulderers damaging cultural sites, no doubt inflamed by two cases of a climber placing bolts close to rock art in the Black Range.
As soon as we get the specifics of what areas are closed we will pass on this information. We are also hoping that we will be given specific information as to why climbing is being banned in these areas so that we can propose solutions that negate the need for long-term large-scale bans.
At the meeting, it was also mentioned that further climbing areas are going to be assessed for cultural heritage and environmental impacts, so this may only be the beginning of bans.
Parks Victoria also expressed serious concerns about the environmental impact of bouldering on vegetation, particularly with the massive increase in the number of climbers bouldering, while there was also concern about the use of fixed anchors within the park.
Parks is setting up a stakeholder group and will be working to develop a state-wide climbing policy, it will also need to update the park management plan for the Grampians, which dates from 2003 and currently doesn’t cover activities like bouldering.
These bans are unprecedented, and as a user group we are going to need to respond in an organised and forceful fashion. There’s no doubt that climbing can happen in the park in a culturally respectful and environmentally responsible fashion without wholesale bans.
We would ask that all climbers respect these bans absolutely while we come up with a response to their implementation.
We will pass on further information once we have it from Parks Victoria.
You can read a statement from the Victorian Climbing Club here.