~Mike & Amanda (aka The Conservation Team)
One week after leaving Oklahoma and making our way to Mount Magazine State Park near Paris, Arkansas we park the Jeep and find ourselves sitting in the middle of the Ozarks resting tired limbs and reflecting on yet another successful project working with volunteers from the local climbing community.
Arriving in Arkansas the week of the project, we set up camp at Brown Springs Campground/Picnic Area. The Arkansas Climbers Coalition, whom we would be working with on this project, had gone out of their way to get us set up with camping accommodations for the week, for which we were extremely grateful. Not only were we minutes away from the work site, but we were also extremely close to the fantastic Savanna Sandstone cliffs that play host to a wide variety of trad and sport climbs at the park. Warm and sunny weather greeted us daily, as we explored the park and began laying plans for the upcoming weekend’s project.
The completed project, which would entail building two stone staircases of significant size and establishing a short section of trail tread, would eliminate a wet and slippery climbing access point that utilized a creek bed. The crag at Mount Magazine faces south and is most frequently used during winter months, exacerbating issues in the creek since it is typically icy during those months. When we first surveyed the site, we realized very quickly that we were looking at a substantial project that would require a tremendous amount of physical effort, and a significant volunteer turnout to achieve the results the park was hoping for. To say that we were initially daunted would be an understatement, but as we explored the site and discussed our options, the pieces began to come together.
On Wednesday we ventured down to Little Rock to visit the Little Rock Climbing Center. It was great to meet so many enthusiastic climbers interested in what we were up to. Many that we spoke with were excited about the upcoming project on Saturday and planned to make the two-hour drive to help out. We really appreciated the psych and welcome we received from everyone at the gym as well as the enthusiasm for stewardship work.
The next morning we awoke to the company of Dani and Roland, the Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer team that would be joining us at the Saturday event. Dani and Roland are employed vagabonds like ourselves, traveling the country educating people about responsible ways to enjoy the outdoors that reduce impacts to the land. Having these experts on hand for the weekend would add yet another voice for the importance of conserving the areas where we play; they are also avid climbers and we were excited to have some friends to hang with at the crag for a couple of days before the project.
The morning of the project we awoke to cool temperatures and partly sunny skies. The forecast earlier in the week had called for rain, but for the moment it appeared that any rain showers that had been predicted would hold off for the morning. We ate a brief breakfast and headed to the trailhead to begin our day. Volunteers arrived at 9 AM and once everyone was registered and had gone through the morning safety briefing we headed for the work site.
Building stone stairs is a task that requires a strong back and an eye suited for the game of Tetris. It’s also a task that can become cumbersome with too many people due to the fact that you can only work from the bottom up, and the terrain tends to be steep with loose footing. As we began working it became apparent that, with the enthusiastic turnout of volunteers, we had reached critical mass for our trail work site and could disperse to give attention to multiple projects. With this divide-and-conquer strategy, we were able to collect a large garbage bag full of trash, construct a short section of trail, begin work on a second set of stairs, and clear vegetation from the trail corridor along the base of the cliffs. When all was said and done we had established a much more enjoyable access point to the climbing at Mount Magazine, while also improving safety and the sustainability of the trail.
Following the trail building, volunteers were treated to buffet dinner and beverages courtesy of the Arkansas Climbers Coalition, and we gave a slideshow presentation alongside the Leave No Trace Traveling Trainers.
In total, our week in Arkansas was a huge success thanks to the dedication of the Arkansas Climber’s Coalition, volunteers, and staff at Mount Magazine State Park. Without the amazing turnout by volunteers and the cooperation between the park and local climbing community, access to the cliffs at Mount Magazine would still be a slippery ordeal. Thanks to everyone that contributed to this great event!