Foster Falls Climbing Management Plan
1. Project Location
Foster Falls Small Wilds Area is located in Marion County, TN between Jasper and Tracy City on highway US 41/TN 150. For the purposes of this Climbing Management Plan (CMP), Foster Falls will be divided into 3 zones.
Zone 1 is the property owned and operated by Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). This includes the parking lot, pay campsites, the falls, the gulf and the gorge to approximately the first two existing sport routes, Pond S***** and Skipper.
Zone 2 includes the property either owned or operated by the State of Tennessee. This zone runs from the first two existing sport routes and extends through the majority of the frequently visited climbing past the Red Light District to Jacob’s Ladder.
Zone 3 is also owned or operated by the state and runs from Jacob’s Ladder down to the end of the cliff band.
2. Purpose of the CMP
The goal of the South *****berland State Recreation Area (SCSRA) is to preserve the resource for the future, which is also the mission of The Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC). In recent years, visitors to the park have had increased impact on the area. The increase in the popularity of rock climbing has also contributed to this impact. If Foster Falls is to be preserved for future generations, visitors must learn to mitigate their impacts.
3. History of the Park
Climbing at Foster Falls has not always been as secure as it is now. At one point, the park was closed to climbing. Foster Falls has been preserved over the years by many groups and individuals including the Friends of the South *****berland, the SCC, the Access Fund, the Conservation Alliance and especially the late Jim Prince.
4. Objectives and Zone Management
Ultimately, the following are the objectives of the CMP:
1. Protect the natural resources.
2. Provide a diversity of recreational experiences including climbing.
3. Participate in a joint venture with the climbing community to assist in the management of climbing and resource conservation.
4. Provide an educational programming for all visitors including climbers.
5. Provide a working committee of climbers and rangers to observe resource impacts and make decisions based on that observation.
The CMP attempts to achieve these goals through volunteer management by the climbing community.
While the CMP cannot address all the factors contributing to the impact on the park, it can look at address the impact of climbing within the three zones (Zone 1, 2 and 3). As stated earlier, the climbing areas are broken into 3 zones.
In Zone 1, no climbing and no new routes are allowed due to TVA regulations. While climbers have helped to build the trails in this zone, little of the impact is due to climber traffic. Much of the visitor impact in this area is due to the large crowds of people who hike to the base of the falls for the view or to swim.
Zone 2 is where most of the existing climbing is located. New routes here are only allowed with permission of the New Route Committee. While much of the climbing is spread out or is located on side trails and has little impact, areas like the Dihedrals, Jimmywood and the Rocketslab have been adversely affected by the greater number of people visiting. Due to the concentration of more moderate routes (moderate routes are defined as routes graded 5.10 and under), climbers are often waiting for these climbs. This leads to damage of the vegetation, especially trees and a severe widening of the trail. By dispersing more moderate routes throughout Zone 2, the pressure on the crowded areas can be relieved. Unless the quality of the routes warrants it or the area can handle the traffic, no more than 2 or 3 routes in Zone 2 shall be closely spaced together. Trails in this area are to also be more defined to discourage the widening. The three areas mentioned above as well as some other future areas may need some rehabilitation of vegetation near the cliff base. If the trees are allowed to be killed and vegetation are trampled and killed, the cliff will lose its summer shade and erosion will go unchecked increase due to the soil holding capabilities of the roots.
Climbing in Zone 3 is to be less regulated but new routes will still require approval of the New Route Committee. Eventually, if a trail is established into this area, moderate routes can be installed to relieve the pressure in Zone 2. Moderate routes are also allowed in a greater concentration in this area with hopes of encouraging some climbers to hike in on the upper trail and access the climbs without hiking through Zone 2.
5. Rules and Regulations
As part of the CMP, the SCC and the SCSRA hope to install a series of kiosks at the entrances to the climbing areas posting rules and regulations, as well as some suggestions. These may cover issues such as the need for low impact hiking, to courtesy while climbing. Some may apply to climbers but many will apply to all visitors. Some of these rules may be enforceable by the park rangers, others should simply be matters of positive peer pressure and friendly climber education.
The kiosk will have the following rules and regulations posted as well as have some flyer versions of the CMP and other climbing related materials:
1. Please practice Leave No Trace ethics. See www.lnt.org for more information. The damage you do to a rock or tree may take years to be undone.
2. Please pack out all trash whether it is yours or not.
3. Please stay on established trails.
4. No rappelling allowed in climbing areas.
5. Absolutely no toproping directly off fixed anchors (the rope should not run through the fixed anchors during toproping, but through carabiners).
6. Please do not use chalk excessively.
7. Be courteous to others. If other climbers are waiting, please limit your time on routes.
8. Do not urinate near climbs or trails. Bury your waste and toilet paper or pack it out.
9. Please climb responsibly as the Law of Gravity is strictly enforced.
10. Absolutely no drugs or alcohol tolerated!!
11. All climbers must be off the trail before dark.
12. Abandoned gear will be confiscated. Please do not “fix” routes or place permanent gear without approval of the New Route Committee.
13. No bolting allowed without prior approval from the New Route Committee. Contact Lance Brock at email@example.com or at 615-463-7625 or contact the Park Office at 931-924-2980 for more information.
The New Route Committee will be made up of 7 climbers and 1 ranger. The climbers on the committee are selected based on a variety of backgrounds, geographic location and experience establishing new routes. The committee is to review any requests for new routes and consider the impact on the park as a whole. They are to consider whether the area in question handle the increased traffic incurred by the proposed route. They are also to monitor changing conditions to decide the best way to continually lessen the impact of visitors, specifically climbers. Three members of the committee and the ranger must agree on the route in respect to the quality of the route and the impact the route will have on its surroundings before it can be established or bolted.
Currently, the committee is chaired by Lance Brock. Other climbers on the committee are Arno Ilgner and Steve Jones from the Middle Tennessee Area; Jerry Roberts from the Chattanooga Area and Steve Deweese and Ken Bunch from the Atlanta Area. Jason Reynolds and Bill Knapp will be the representative rangers from the SCSRA. Replacing members of the committee will be handled as the need arises. SCSRA reserves the right for final approval or denial on all route requests.
Other issues will be addressed by the New Route Committee (NRC). They may include, but are not limited to the following:
1. All new anchors must be approved by the NRC.
2. Only stainless steel hardware is to be used on new routes or anchor replacement.
3. All bolts must be a minimum of 3/8” diameter.
4. No retro-bolting.
5. Any “fixed draws” must be approved by the NRC and must be camouflaged in color, preferably tan.
6. No open cold shuts are permitted.
7. While anchor replacement is not the responsibility of the NRC or the SCC, these groups may coordinate some efforts to replace aging hardware.
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