By Garrett Hutson, writing on behalf of the OAC Board.
The OAC was recently alerted to presence of police officers in the Niagara Glen asking to see bouldering permits as part of their efforts to increase monitoring at the Glen. The OAC is also aware of an email exchange between the NPC and a Glen boulderer who expressed concern about Glen permits on Facebook. This message provides additional context given the attention this exchange has received.
The argument against having a permit only for boulderers makes sense and the OAC appreciates why this is frustrating for many within the climbing community. However, the Glen is a unique climbing resource and the OAC continues to support the use of bouldering permits at the Glen for the following reasons:
1. The permit system at the Glen is a product of serious consideration within the NPC to ban bouldering beginning around 7 years ago due to negative environmental impacts to the area by all user groups. As a response, many climbers at the time suggested the use of a permit to formalize bouldering as a sanctioned activity within the park for a small fee. To some degree, developing a fee-based permit system was an idea by climbers for climbers and the NPC agreed that this was a positive way forward. Since the launch of the permit system, the NPC has been very friendly to boulderers who do not hold permits and only reminds them to purchase one, which is what they’re currently doing. The NPC has made no indication to the OAC that they plan to do anything further at this point in terms of enforcement.
2. The issue of fairness regarding who has to pay at the Glen is worth talking about. Yes, it seems unfair that climbers pay and no one else does at the Glen. However, as reported by the NPC, monies generated from the permit system are used for trail work, maintenance, and help pay for additional insurance costs required as a result of bouldering being a sanctioned park activity. Every year since its inception, bouldering permit purchases have gone up, which means more boulderers utilize the resource, have more impact, and create more risk for the NPC to take on. While the OAC will continue to bring this concern to the NPC, it is worth reiterating that the NPC is a self-financed entity. From the OAC’s understanding, the NPC has the full right to charge a fee for any activity they choose on any of their properties for any reason. The NPC has deemed certain activities to be free like hiking, while others have an associated fee like bouldering or parking in certain areas. Is it a perfectly fair system? Probably not – but no system is, and this one has worked out in a way that has kept bouldering open for a small fee not unlike other fees that climbers pay at other locations. This is a unique situation compared to other climbing areas and is part of the framework the OAC negotiates within when discussing bouldering with the NPC.
3. The issue of vandals and others degrading the Glen environment has always been a frustrating reality for boulderers and the NPC. This is a larger issue that the NPC continues to deal with and is part of the reason they report an increased presence at the Glen. The bottom line is that the Niagara Glen sits within one of the most densely populated regions in North America inside of one of the most visited cities in Canada. It sees a lot of visitors and many of them have complete disregard for the Glen’s sensitive and beautiful natural surroundings that most boulderers love so much. This is a fact of life for many urban parks. The OAC acknowledges the complexity of park management and feels the NPC is doing the best they can given the resources currently at their disposal. Further, and as the NPC highlighted, there are past examples of boulderers behaving poorly at the Glen including the development of social trails, climbing in closed areas, illegal placement of bolts, playing loud music, and congregating in large groups. While those examples are limited in number, the NPC has made note of them. Please remember to remind other boulderers to adhere to leave no trace practices if any of these activities are observed.
In summary, the OAC has built, actively maintains, and is grateful for the positive relationship it has with the NPC. The OAC is extremely happy that the Glen remains open to bouldering with the permit system in place. The OAC will also continue to bring the concerns of the climbing community to the attention of the NPC in the future including the bouldering permit system.