A coalition of nonprofit organizations dedicated to climbing purchased two properties this month to create new bouldering opportunities and open access to a climbing area north of Chattanooga.
The groups plan to turn the properties over to Cumberland Trail State Park when the work is finished to allow public access, long-term care and climber-friendly management.
The Access Fund and the Southeastern Climbers Coalition purchase secures a new climbing area — known as Hell's Kitchen — and creates public access to the Dogwood Boulders climbing area. The projects are expected to open to the public this fall. The areas are north of Chattanooga near the small town of Graysville. Hell's Kitchen is located adjacent to Cumberland Trail State Park, with Dogwood Boulders a few miles northeast.
"Both Hell's Kitchen and Dogwood Boulders are remarkable climbing resources, with outstanding conservation values," said Access Fund Southeast Regional Director Zachary Lesch-Huie. "We're thrilled to play a role in protecting them."
The groups have been monitoring the properties for years and saw them as having high value to climbers, according to a statement from Access Fund, a national climbing advocacy group. Both properties were owned by the same person, who put them up for sale. Access Fund representatives immediately began discussions with the landowner, and a deal was finalized April 10.
The groups used the Access Fund's loan program to secure $125,000 for the purchase, and the Southeastern Climbers Coalition contributed $6,500. The loan program helps groups receive money quickly to purchase property for climbing and is becoming a staple of climbing purchases across the Southeast, Lesch-Huie said. The group will now begin a fundraising campaign to recoup the money. The nonprofit is asking for $167,000 to cover the purchase price, transaction cost, trail improvements and to create sustainable access areas.
"Our climbing conservation loan is for exactly these sorts of projects," Lesch-Huie said. "It helps us close deals quickly."
Hell's Kitchen is a 10-acre property that has never been opened to climbing. It features a "densely concentrated boulderfield with free-standing blocks, short sections of cliff, and a labyrinth of hidden corridors offering hundreds of problems and a small number of short, gritstone-like routes," according to the Access Fund release. It is comparable to the Stone Fort and Rock Town bouldering areas.
Dogwood Boulders was previously accessible only via a 6-mile hike. The purchase of a 7-acre tract off Bluffview Road will create public access to the bouldering area. The acquisition will allow for a new public parking area, a trailhead off Bluffview Road and protection for a small section of the boulders along the tract.
Hell's Kitchen will undergo construction of an approximately half-mile-long trail stemming off the main Cumberland Trail along Roaring Creek. The Dogwood Access property needs road improvements, a parking area and a short access trail before being ready for public use, according to the release.
"SCC is extremely excited to support this project and see these areas preserved for future generations," Southeastern Climbers Coalition Executive Director Cody Roney said. "We have a long history of partnering with Access Fund to protect important areas and access points, and this is another great win."