Rock climbers throughout
western Canada – and beyond – heaved a collective sigh of relief at the recent
news that a 304-hectare parcel of land had been secured to provide both parking
and access to the popular Skaha Bluffs rock climbing area in Penticton, B.C.
After months of negotiations,
an announcement was made on Jan. 19 that the Land Conservancy of BC (TLC) and
the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), through the NCC-Government of Canada
Natural Areas Conservation Program, had partnered with Mountain Equipment Co-op
and other supporters to acquire the property immediately south of the popular
The parcel of land will not
only provide permanent access and parking for climbers heading to the dozens of
cliffs which comprise Skaha Bluffs, but will also help protect the area’s high
recreation and conservation values, as it is slated to be managed as a Class A
B.C. Provincial Park.
A 14-year agreement between
Braesyde Farm landowner Hugh Dunlop and the local climbing community, which
provided parking on his property for a fee, expired in November 2006 at the end
of the climbing season, even as Dunlop accepted an offer to sell his property
to be developed into a vineyard.
Faced without an alternate
access and parking solution in the spring of 2007, the climbing community was
able to work out another deal with Dunlop for the 2007 season after his
property sale fell through, and while negotiations and fundraising efforts to
purchase the parcel of land to the south were worked out.
Since going public with the
campaign to purchase the private land in March 2007, donations poured in from
across Canada, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and England, with contributions
from climbers, outdoor enthusiasts and naturalists, as well as several
organizations like the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund, the B.C. Trust for
Public Lands and the Nature Trust of B.C. Significant corporate contributions
added to the pot, including $10,000 from The Access Society and a $250,000 land
acquisition grant from retailer Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC). In addition to
the grant, MEC offered to match donations made by its members up to $100,000.
To meet the $5.25 million
sale price, B.C.'s Ministry of Environment stepped in to provide $1.25 million,
the Nature Conservancy of Canada, with support from the Government of Canada,
provided $2.3 million and The Land Conservancy raised $1.7 million.
"The purchase of this
property recognizes the importance of providing recreational access and, at the
same time, protecting a vital area for the conservation of wildlife," said
TLC executive director Bill Turner. "The successful completion of the
campaign could not have happened without support from the climbing community,
and the many wildlife and conservation groups and individuals who are dedicated
to B.C.'s wildlife."