20 years of the Access Fund: Climbing advocacy organization celebrates anniversary with Boulder events

20 years of the Access Fund: Climbing advocacy organization celebrates anniversary with Boulder events

If you go

What: Access Fund 20th anniversary events

When: 4:30 to 7 p.m. Friday; 6:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Friday happy hour at Avery Brewing, 5763 Arapahoe Ave.; Saturday dinner at the Boulderado, 2115 13th St.

More info: Register for Saturday’s event at accessfund.org.

When the Access Fund, a national climbing advocacy organization based in Boulder, got its start 20 years ago, it operated mostly based on “The Call.”

“The Call” was an annual phone call someone from the Access Fund made to Yvon Chouinard, founder of the Patagonia clothing company, for a check.

“Once a year, they would call Yvon and he would write a $10,000 check — and that was the model,” said Brady Robinson, Access Fund’s executive director.

This is how they got by after breaking off of the American Alpine Club in 1991, he said. But in the past 20 years, the Access Fund has grown beyond “The Call.”

“We’ve got almost a million dollars in capital right now,” Robinson said. “We loan money out to local climbing (organizations) to buy property or easements. We’ve done that seven times now.”

This weekend, there will be two events in Boulder for the Access Fund’s 20th anniversary. Friday night, Avery Brewing is hosting a happy hour event with the Access Fund from 4:30 to 7 p.m. On Saturday, the Access Fund will hold a fundraiser dinner at the Boulderado Hotel.

The Access Fund started as an access committee at the American Alpine Club, but broke off on its own in 1991. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, there were access issues all over the country, including battles over bolting routes near Boulder, in the Flatirons and Eldorado Canyon.

Chris Archer, a Boulder climber and attorney, served on the Access Fund’s board from 1994 to 2002, and has offered his services as general counsel since then. During the bolting wars, Archer said, “the climbing community was kind of divided among itself.”

Archer said he immediately got involved in the bolting wars in Boulder. He’s a current and founding board member of the Action Committee for Eldorado — also currently celebrating 20 years — which was incorporated in 1992, thanks to financial help from the Access Fund.

“I’ve always worked against restrictions on any kind of climbing, and the Access Fund was a perfect vehicle for that.”

The Access Fund also quickly got into the business of buying land in the early ’90s, including North Table Mountain, in Golden. Though the Access Fund still owns that property, it bought and then sold other land acquisitions. For example, the Access Fund bought and sold Cactus Cliff at Shelf Road, outside of Canon City, in 1999 because “the federal government, they can’t buy land for above appraised value, but we can,” Robinson said.

But Robinson said “it was the North Table Mountain that turned us away from (land ownership) strategically, because we realized that not only are we a landowner, we’re a land manager.”

In the early 2000s, the Access Fund became focused on helping smaller, local climbing advocacy groups around the country — like the Action Committee for Eldorado.

“Many of them started buying property themselves,” he said.

Nationally in the ’90s, fixed anchors were one of the major access issues, Robinson said.

The U.S. Forest Service banned fixed anchors of any sort in wilderness in 1997, and the Access Fund challenged the ban. Though that sort of policy work is important, Robinson said, their land acquisitions tend to be more widely recognizable.

“Our policy work, arguably, has kept a lot more land open than our acquisition work,” he said, but it it’s not as exciting. He joked that it “puts them to sleep.”

Here in Boulder, both Archer and Robinson said climbers have good access.

“Locally, climbers have outstanding access to climbing resources,” Archer said. “One of the nice things about that is that it allows the Access Fund to put their resources into other areas.

“When you look at what this organization has accomplished over the years, and the quality of the people who have worked on it, it’s really a tremendous success.”

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