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Partner Spotlight: Southeastern Climbers Coalition

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Partner Spotlight: Southeastern Climbers Coalition

When living in or visiting Southeast Tennessee, it doesn’t take long before you hear about the exciting adventures that await you in the great outdoors: hiking, rafting, national parks, kayaking, climbing, zip-lining, and more. In most cases, however, the land and waterways must first be made available to the public in order for us to enjoy these experiences.

This is where the collaborative effort of individuals and nonprofit organizations can play a vital role.

The Land Trust for Tennessee has been fortunate to partner with the Southeastern Climbers Coalition (“SCC”), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to preserve climbing for present and future generations, on multiple conservation projects. Together, our organizations have worked together to conserve popular destinations for Tennesseans and visitors to enjoy today and for years to come.

Andrea Hassler, SCC Executive Director

Meet SCC

SCC is a group of dedicated members and volunteers working to preserve climbing areas in the South for public use. The organization partners with other climbing advocacy groups, public and private landowners, private businesses, and – you guessed it – land trusts.

“Land trusts help us work with private landowners to negotiate land acquisitions to open up areas to the public. They are a lifeline to working with private landowners,” SCC Executive Director Andrea Hassler said.

For more than 26 years, SCC has worked in the region to secure public access to climbing areas. From owning seven properties to managing access agreements on dozens of additional private and public properties, the SCC plays a major role for securing outdoor recreation opportunities in the area.

“Our main focus is to ensure policies are in place to keep climbing areas open for public use, assist in the management of climbing activities, and ensure the stewardship of the properties’ natural resources,” Andrea explained.

SCC’s work with landowners dates back to its beginning.

“Our creation story is a great example of the work we do with landowners,” Andrea shared. “In 1993, public access to climbing was threatened in Sunset Park on Lookout Mountain, and a band of climbers came together to advocate for the benefits of keeping the climbing area open. They worked with park management by supporting efforts to take care of the park by removing graffiti, picking up trash, and maintaining the access trails.”

A Rock & A Cove

Sitting on 30 acres in Jasper (Marion Co.), Tenn., Castle Rock was the first project The Land Trust completed in partnership with SCC. The land is owned and managed by the Tennessee River Gorge Trust, who partnered with The Land Trust to permanently conserve Castle Rock in March 2015. Through a lease with the Tennessee River Gorge Trust, SCC continues to manage the property for rock climbing enthusiasts, which they have done since 2005.

View of Castle Rock from above

While Castle Rock can be seen from miles away , the cliff can only be accessed through the privately-owned land next to it. With help from The Land Trust and TRGT, Andrea explains that the SCC negotiated a lease agreement with the landowner to continue providing access to the rock for climbers.

“Castle Rock is an extremely popular climbing area that is well loved by all who go there. We are grateful for the assistance The Land Trust provided to help keep it open to the public,” Andrea said.

In July 2016, The Land Trust and SCC, with a large coalition of partners, finalized the protection of one of Tennessee’s premier rock climbing destinations: Denny Cove.

Overlook at Denny Cove (Credit: Zachary Lesch-Huie)

Conserving the 685-acre landmark took six years of collaboration between multiple organizations, including SCC, who led the effort to initially purchase the property from a timber investment company.

“Denny Cove offers amazing and extensive climbing opportunities. Having the land now owned and managed by the State of Tennessee as a part of South Cumberland State Park is a great accomplishment, ensuring it is protected for years to come,” Andrea shared.

On the Horizon

Now, The Land Trust and SCC – along with North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy and SORBA Chattanooga – are partnering on a public park project just minutes from downtown Chattanooga. At the base of Signal Mountain, Walden’s Ridge Park is slated to become the first park in the region to offer both climbing and mountain biking on the same property.

“It has been a pleasure to work alongside The Land Trust on Walden’s Ridge Park. They have helped coordinate efforts to establish access and trails to get to the boulders,” Andrea said.

[Land trusts] are a lifeline to working with private landowners.

Andrea Hassler, SCC Executive Director

This partnership is a prime example of the impact conservation partners can achieve by working together. Conserving places for the public to enjoy often requires the coordinated effort of multiple individuals and organizations, all with the one goal in mind: conservation that benefits us all.

Partnerships like those with SCC are critical to ensuring that the places Tennesseans and visitors know and love are around for future generations to experience and enjoy.

Your support empowers our work on projects like these, connecting communities to the great outdoors and protecting public parkland forever.