Climbers discovered the New River Gorge in the early 1970s, and since that time, the canyon has become one of the nation's top destinations for rock climbing. Climbing routes also can be found in the nearby Gauley River and Meadow River canyons, and the cliffs surrounding Summersville Lake.
Carl Frischkorn, founder of Wild Rock, said the easement makes official an informal arrangement in which climbers and other members of the public have been allowed to use the development's trails. The easement agreement provides an additional layer of risk management, he said, and strengthens the homesite community's approach to sustainability.
"We view sustainability not only in terms of light-touch building and living practices, but also in how we are partnering with our neighbors to promote access to the outdoors," Frischkorn said. "We are proud to partner with NRAC and the Access Fund to help ensure that visiting and local climbers have unfettered paths to Bubba City."
The easement agreement, drafted with the assistance of Nathan Fetty, managing attorney for West Virginia University's Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Clinic, keeps climber access through Wild Rock's property open for five years, with the option to renew at that time or make the arrangement permanent.
The easement "serves as a template for how climbers and private landowners can partner to protect public access," said Joe Sambataro, director of access for the Access Fund.
The parking lot and trails at Wild Rock are open during daytime hours only. Dog owners using the trails are asked to keep their pets on a leash.
"Wild Rock has delivered on a promise to help preserve public recreational access through their land and into the Gorge," Sambataro said. "This is a big first step toward securing long-term access to the climbing at Bubba City and sets a great example for park-adjacent development."
Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelham...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.