People and natural resources benefit when nonprofits, land managers and businesses partner to accomplish needed maintenance in valued recreation areas. This held true when the High Desert Climbers Alliance (HDCA), a local climbing advocacy nonprofit, Deschutes National Forest (Forest Service) and 10 Barrel Brewing worked together to organize two work days at the Meadow Climbing area along the Deschutes River Trail just outside of Bend. Projects such as this often can’t be accomplished without significant collaboration that brings together funding, knowledge, expertise, and people to do the work.

Volunteer work days were held this fall on Sept. 26 and Oct. 18 to address erosion and restore unauthorized trails that have become prolific in recent years. The first day, 28 people came, and on the second day, 17 people came from the climbing community and 10 Barrel to work together. In order to comply with safety protocols and COVID-19 policies, some people had to be turned away. This demonstrates the presence of local energy and interest to put into areas such as this.

Maitreya Sriram, treasurer and equity coordinator for the HDCA posited, “Maybe it was pent up energy from the pandemic or just the beautiful autumn weather. Either way, climbers were eager to take on a greater stewardship role for this area.”

The groups installed four stone stairways along the main Deschutes River Trail to prevent slopes from eroding. They rehabbed over 15 non-system trails that were either redundant or unsustainable due to the steep slopes throughout the bouldering area and on the approaches to the climbing routes. They installed new signs in the area.

This work was accomplished after pre-planning and walk-throughs between the Forest Service and the HDCA to determine what needed to be done.

HDCA approached the Forest Service about rehabbing the area after it has grown in popularity in the last few years. The Forest Service agreed to review HDCA’s proposals and the two organizations worked together to make a plan. Because the area is federal land managed by the Forest Service, the proposed projects had to be approved through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process which analyzes for resource impacts and provides an opportunity for public comment. Funding and several volunteers were provided by 10 Barrel Brewing Company.

Sriram commented on how great it’s been to work with the Forest Service. He pointed out that “our treasured local spots really benefit when land managers engage directly with local advocacy groups. The Forest Service has been supportive of our efforts to maintain climbing access for the local community.”

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He added, “The Forest Service is responsible for millions of acres of land, the least we can do as climbers is to help them out in the areas we use.”

“The Deschutes River Trail is an incomprehensibly valuable public resource for recreation, and the section of it that connects to the Meadow climbing area is used by so many more folks than just climbers. It’s easy to take this access for granted,” he said. “It takes stewardship and dedication to make sure that the area continues to provide beautiful outdoor experiences for the next people lucky enough to be out there.” He’s pleased that climbers can be part of that effort.

HDCA recognizes that maintenance at an area with such high traffic like this is an ongoing project.

Sriram said, “There’s plenty more to do, but local climbers are committed to keeping trails and climbing access open for everyone to enjoy.” Asked how others can also be good stewards of popular areas, he replied, “we all help a place by managing our individual behavior, educating others to do the same, and showing up on trail days ready to get dirty.”

• To get involved as a climber, a hiker, or a person who loves local climbing areas and trails, follow HDCA on IG @highdesertclimbers

• For more information about the climbing in the Meadow Area look for the book, “Central Oregon Bouldering” at a local gear shop or visit mountainproject.com

• To be notified of upcoming projects such as this on Forest Service land, go to their website: fs.usda.gov/main/deschutes/landmanagement/projects

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Reporter: 541-383-0349, djasper@bendbulletin.com

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