An Update on Climbing in Ontario as We Move to Stage 1 of Reopening

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It’s been a week of hope and change as Ontario prepares to loosen certain COVID-19 restrictions.  Collectively we’ve worked hard to flatten the curve, enduring weeks of difficult social distancing measures and uncertainty about the future.  We’re now at a point where the province is ready to slowly begin the process of reopening, which is an exciting milestone.  What does this mean for Ontario climbers?

Crown Land may officially be accessed for recreational activity, including rock climbing where access is secure or tolerated. However, visitors must continue to respect all physical distancing recommendations.  Visitors must maintain a distance of 2 metres from other people, avoid gathering in groups of more than 5, and follow local restrictions.  Please keep in mind that some smaller communities, including Grey County, have issued official requests that non-residents or seasonal visitors avoid visiting.  Provincial enforcement officers continue to patrol Crown Land, which is managed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.  You may be questioned regarding non-essential travel.  Please strongly consider not traveling to access Crown Land if you are not a local resident.

Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves have opened for public access, but permitted activities in these spaces are still limited to walking, hiking, cycling, and birdwatching.  Climbing is not yet permitted.

Conservation Areas are independently managed by their respective Conservation Authorities.  Please check with the appropriate Conservation Authority to determine if they have opened to the public, and what their restrictions are.  Conservation Halton plans to open Mount Nemo and Rattlesnake Point in the coming week via a reservation system for all visitors, but climbing is not yet a permitted activity.  Climbing at the Niagara Glen is also not yet permitted.

We understand that things are moving quickly and it can be confusing to know where climbing is permitted.  Please adhere to all local guidelines.  Undertake research on the areas  you wish to climb at before planning your trip to ensure they are open for climbing.  Respect requests for visitors to stay away from vulnerable communities.  Be patient and wait for local crags to open up again.  If ever in doubt, please err on the side of caution and avoid putting access at risk.

We’re just as eager as you to be able to get out on real rock, but we must remember that COVID-19 poses a serious threat to health and well-being, and that the loosening of restrictions does not mean that the threat is gone.  Let’s do our best to continue preventing community transmission while enjoying the outdoors in order to maintain access!

With that in mind, we’ve established a list of guidelines to help you choose whether to climb, and if you climb, how to do so responsibly.  Please read them, and do your best to stay informed.  Be safe, be patient, and be considerate!

Ontario Releases Framework for Stage 1

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Today, the Ontario government released a framework for Stage 1 of reopening the province.  While this is exciting news, it is not yet clear how our crags are affected by this latest announcement.  We are reviewing the information and reaching out to land managers.  We aim to make a statement by Saturday. 

Until then, please exercise good judgment, do your research, and if in doubt, err on the side of caution to avoid negatively impacting access.

A Study on the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Outdoor Recreation Participation

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Brock University has teamed up with ALIVE Outdoors to study the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on Canadian outdoor recreation participation patterns. Study participants are asked to complete a survey which takes about 15-20 minutes to complete and focuses on how outdoor recreation affects their physical, emotional and overall health. It’s an opportunity to provide land managers and outdoor recreation service providers with information about the impacts of the recent recreation area closures. It will also provide insight into how outdoor enthusiasts feel about the reopening (or not) of these spaces.

The survey is only open until the 15th of May. If you have the time, please fill it out to ensure all outdoor recreationists are represented. This is your opportunity to tell land managers how much you value the outdoors!

Participate in the study here: https://brock.ca1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_2nP3retfFIYnuWp

Ontario Parks begin to open for walk-through access

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With cautious optimism, Ontario is set to open Provincial Parks and conservation reserves starting this week. This is exciting news, as the ability to enjoy the outdoors is vital to both physical and mental health!

It is important to remember that recreational activities will be limited to walking, hiking, biking and birdwatching. Climbing is currently not a permitted activity. Park usage will be monitored to ensure proper physical distancing protocols are being followed, and we need to respect the situation to prevent these spaces from closing to visitors again.

For more information and to determine if parks near you are open, see http://www.ontarioparks.com/covid19

Conservation Areas on the other hand, such as Rattlesnake Point and Mount Nemo, are individually owned or protected by Conservation Authorities. They are not operated by the provincial government, and will not be opening with the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves.

Each individual Conservation Authority will determine when, and under what circumstances, their Conservation Areas will open to the public. So far, climbing is not permitted at any Conservation Area. The full list of Ontario Conservation Authorities can be found here https://conservationontario.ca/conservation-authorities/find-a-conservation-authority/.

We are working directly with land managers at the various crags, and will update the community whenever there are changes. For now, we must respect our relationships with the land managers in order to not create long lasting access issues.

Thank you for your patience and continued support!

Virtual Town Hall Recap – April 28, 2020

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We want to give a sincere thank you to everyone who joined us for the meeting! We had 139 people tune in, and enjoyed a very thoughtful discussion about how the current pandemic is affecting the province. We are grateful to have such an invested and supportive community from all over Ontario.

Some key takeaways:

Please do not climb outdoors.

Climbing outside in Ontario is subject to restrictions by multiple levels of government. Any green spaces which are not explicitly closed to the public are open for walkthrough access only. This applies to all green spaces, including crown land and crags which normally do not have open access. Climbing is not considered walkthrough access, as it involves staying in one place for an extended period of time and touching shared surfaces. Please see here for more details.

Choosing to climb when it is not permitted by your local government may result in climbing being banned.

Green spaces are being patrolled, and you are liable to be ticketed for not following the rules. If the climbing community develops a bad reputation now, we may lose access permanently to some of our favourite crags.

We have a responsibility to keep each other informed about best practices.

The OAC is not a governing body. We are not here to enforce restrictions, but to educate. We believe that if a climber is informed about the impacts of their actions, they will make safe and responsible decisions. If you are aware of climbers who are not adhering to current restrictions and regulations, we recommend having an open and respectful discussion. Some people may not be aware of how the rules apply to smaller communities or certain lands. As provincial restrictions exist in addition to federal ones, it can be confusing to understand why Ontario is under a different set of sanctions than other provinces or territories. Approaching the topic with empathy will go a long way.

We will follow federal, provincial, and local legislation as things change.

The best thing we can do right now is to stay informed. As provincial guidelines are updated, we will do our best to communicate changes with the climbing community. The ways in which we are able to enjoy the outdoors will most likely change, and we will have to adapt our best practices to local regulations. We’re watching the situation closely and will let you know the second you can get out there!

Please feel free to reach out to us at any time if you have questions about climbing access, at info@ontarioallianceofclimbers.ca.

A complete recording of the meeting is available below:

Update on Summer 2020 Events

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We hope everyone is staying safe, healthy, and sane these days! Unfortunately, with the extensions of the state of emergency due to the spread of COVID-19, it has become clear that we will not be able to safely host any group events this summer. This means that both the Rattlesnake Spring Fling and the Beaver Valley Climbing Festival are canceled for the 2020 season. As the Bruce Peninsula National Park is closed, our Halfway Log Dump volunteering opportunities are also on hold. We’re just as bummed as you are, and deeply missing connecting out on real rock. But we’re looking forward to more meaningful celebrations next summer!

To discuss this news and other ways in which climbing is being affected in Ontario at this moment, please join our Virtual Town Hall this Tuesday at 7PM! Click here to register ahead of time — registered attendees will receive the link to the meeting by email.

Real Talk

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Hey guys, time for some serious talk. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic, which is putting our community at risk. The provincial and federal governments have asked everyone to stay home, avoid non-essential travel, and practice social distancing. Provincial parks are closed to ALL visitors. The COVID-19 regulations mean that activities such as climbing outdoors are *not* permitted, anywhere.

We are very fortunate to have many climbing crags throughout Ontario which welcome our sport — but our continued access is a privilege, not a right. Our relationships with landowners are built upon trust and respect. If we fail to respect the current pleas to stay home, our access may be taken away, and certain crags may ban climbing altogether. Please stay local to get your exercise — go for a walk or a run around the block. Help ensure that once sanctions are lifted, climbing outdoors is something that we’re able to return to. Keep climbing open, and encourage your friends to do the same.