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Contributed photo by Andrea Hassler / Volunteers with the Southeastern Climbers Coalition gathered this summer to pick up litter and clean up Hell's Kitchen in Cumberland Trail State Park.

In May, Andrea Hassler took over as executive director of the Southeastern Climbers Coalition. Between learning the history of the organization and planning flagship events, she's mapping out long-term goals for the 7-state coalition, and with just a few months under her belt, she's setting out to leave a lasting impact for anybody who enjoys the outdoors — not just climbers.

Hassler believes Chattanooga is the perfect hub to enlist local nonprofits and groups to maintain the great outdoors.

"This is a hot spot to visit, and there are a lot of great entities that are not only preserving access on land, but on water too," she says.

Hassler, 31, has always had an interest in conservation. As a geography graduate student at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, she became involved in various trail coordinations, conservation and research roles across the United States.

some text Contributed photo by Andrea Hassler / Volunteers with the Southeastern Climbers Coalition gathered this summer to pick up litter and clean up Hell's Kitchen in Cumberland Trail State Park.

A climber herself, Hassler became involved with SCC in 2017. She has since served as interim stewardship director, and before that as a conservation specialist with the organization's Access Fund, traveling around the country working with various other climbing organizations on how to give back.

Over the summer, SCC cleaned up Hell's Kitchen, where volunteers picked up litter on an access trail in Cumberland Trail State Park and constructed a trail to the Roaring Creek Trailhead which leads to boulders. As Hassler heads into the fall, she says she's looking to increase SCC efforts to promote conservation and community during her tenure as director.

"It's an exciting time to work in the field of outdoor conservation," she says.

 

GOALS

* Pay off the remaining $60,000 of a $150,000 loan that was used to acquire Denny Cove in South Cumberland State Park three years ago. The organization aims to do this through fundraisers and by bringing in more donors. By closing that debt, Hassler says, the group can start to concentrate on maintaining current trials and obtaining new properties.

* Clean up and make trails more accessible. This is high on Hassler's list of to-dos. "There are plenty of opportunities to get out and volunteer," she says.

* Educate the community on preservation and conservation. By working with other local groups, Hassler wants to make climbers more aware of their impact on various trails and boulders.

* Expand the SCC ambassadorship program that allows climbers to act as liaisons between the group and property owners at climbing sites. Currently, 30 of 41 spots are filled, but Hassler says more volunteers are needed. By utilizing local climbers, the goal is to ultimately pull together information on local flora, climbing conditions and other climbing resources in the area for a master inventory.

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