FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE from the Access Fund:
For more information, contact Sam Davidson at 831-770-1523
Rock Climbing Access to Hueco Tanks State Historical Park
Update August 4, 2000, Boulder, Colorado.
The Access Fund's unilateral proposal to contribute a $100,000 Preservation Grant to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) to support Hueco Tanks State Historical Park has been rejected. The grant, which would have donated the money over the next 3 years, earmarked funds to complete archaeological surveys, subsidize the building and maintenance of trail systems, support the Volunteer guides program (for rock art, bird watching and rock climbing), support a climber outreach and education and pay for the mitigation of environmental impacts.
"It is frustrating because we have continually tried to get some type of engagement or partnership working to make the TPWD realize the value of Hueco as a climbing resource," stated Sally Moser, Access Fund Executive Director. While recognizing this set back the Access Fund remains undaunted "Though we were disappointed by TPWD rejecting this proposed grant, we are completely open to any cooperative efforts in the future," Moser continued. Such an unsolicited grant is considered unusual coming from the nonprofit sector and is an example of the lengths the Access Fund was willing to go to improve Park infrastructure and knowledge of resource conditions, so that better decisions could be made regarding restrictions on visitation.
Hueco Tanks State Park is open to visitors interested in rock art, bird watching and climbing but only about one-quarter of the Park can be accessed without a tour guide, and the number of people in this area at any one time is quite limited. All other areas of the Park can only be visited on a guided tour which must be booked in advance. Booking such tours can be difficult, as the number of rangers and volunteers available to give them is limited. During the peak (winter) season tours have to be reserved months in advance and may be canceled without advance warning.
Since this program was implemented the number of visitors to Hueco has declined by up 65%, with revenue falling nearly 70%. It is estimated that climbers comprised as much as 75% of total visitors. "The Access Fund has tried to improve access to Hueco Tanks and point out that many of the current restrictions are unnecessary," states Senior Policy Analyst, Sam Davidson, "we've tried to play the game at every possible level, including hiring a professional cultural resource consultant, who concurred that many of the regulations are more harsh than needed to achieve resource protection goals ."
For more information on public access to Hueco Tanks or to interview key contacts please contact Backbone Media or the Access Fund directly (303) 545-6772 or www.accessfund.org.
So, why did the TPWD reject this offer? Here is what some people close to the action in Austin are saying:
"...I also heard that the Feds turned down the grant that TPWD requested for Hueco Tanks trail improvements due to the lack of public access. They (NRTG program) are not going to pay for an outdoor museum that is not conducive to recreation. If you want more details, call Andy Goldbloom. He is the TPWD guy in charge of the NRTG program and is a pretty candid person. "
Also: "... I think it goes more like this. TPWD was counting on getting the trail money from the Feds so they gave the AF the kiss off. Now they lost the Fed money too."
Huecotanks.com contacted the Access Fund, to get their response to an apparently untrue allegation that had been made about the nature of the Access Fund offer. Here is an unofficial response by Michael Kennedy:
" ... the $100,000 we offered was to help Hueco Tanks State Park conduct archeological research, build trails, and strengthen the volunteer guide program. We did ask that TPWD recognize the unique value of Hueco as a climbing area, and that climbing be considered a legitimate and welcome use of the park, as a condition of the grant.
In no way, shape, or form, however, did we ask that Hueco be turned into a "climbers only" park, to the exclusion of everyone else. Indeed, we have long acknowledged and supported the many diverse user groups at Hueco, and in our many attempts to help park managers develop more climber-friendly policies we have consistently worked to reduce any potential for conflict or misunderstanding between climbers and other visitors at Hueco. "