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Write a Letter, Help Get Ontario Parks Back for Climbers

The Ontario Alliance of Climbers has launched a website to help you write a letter to a politician in support of rock climbing

Ontario climbers are fighting for access to cliffs located in Ontario Parks, including Devil’s Glen Provincial Park. The Ontario Alliance of Climbers (OAC) has started a letter-writing campaign, and launched a new website, in hopes politicians will at least listen to why rock climbing should be allowed in Ontario Parks.

Under Ontario’s provincial parks: general provision (which you can find here), it’s said that “no person shall rappel or climb rock faces in a provincial park with or without the aid of ropes, anchors or similar equipment except in an area designated by the superintendent for that purpose.”

In practice, it led to the banning of climbing from Ontario Parks, many of which have traditions of climbing that go back half a century or more. Many parks that ban climbing allow hunting and at least one park that bans climbing allows commercial logging. These are public lands, and it’s unfair that tax-paying, often locally resident climbers, are banned, while high-impact sportspeople and commercial resource extraction concerns enjoy access to the lands they help conserve with their taxes.

ClimbInParks.ca is there to help you write a letter to Ontario’s minister of environment, conservation and parks; as well as your local member of parliament. Visit the website here and follow the OAC on Instagram below.

For decades, Ontario climbers have dealt with access issues along the Niagara Escarpment, from Niagara Falls to the Bruce Peninsula. Of the dozens of rock climbing areas, most are currently closed or are restricted.

Access at Ontario crags was an issue long before the recent boom in rock climbing, and long before the rise of access groups. We spoke to Urs Kallen, a prolific Swiss climber who moved to Toronto in the 1960s, about Ontario access. He said that one experience played into his decision to move west to the mountains.

“When I was climbing in 1966 at Milton, with Jim Ferguson, we were attempting a huge roof and on the first visit we left a whole bunch of chrome molys [pitons] up there,” Kallen told us. “When we came back to finish it, a farmer came up and confronted us about climbing on what he said was his backyard. To impress on us that he meant what he said, he pressed his shotgun on my chest. Needless to say, I was impressed.”

What happened to Kallen and Ferguson nearly 60 years ago has nothing to do with today’s access issues, but shows there’s long been tension between climbers and land owners in Ontario. Kallen continued, “Access was one of the main reasons I left Ontario for greener pastures, Yamnuska, way out west.” Kallen is not alone, as countless climbers have moved out of the province to areas with better access to rock climbing. Alberta, along with B.C., Quebec and the maritime provinces, allows rock climbing in their parks.

Ontario has some of Canada’s most classic crags, including Lion’s Head, and has been the starting-off point for some of North America’s best all-round climbers. Hopefully Ontario Parks will see the benefit of the sport and will work with the OAC to secure access to at least some of the now-closed crags. The OAC recently had a virtual town hall where they discussed the ongoing access issues, watch below.

OAC Town Hall on Access