The VW Passat barreled along the Pike, a last leg surge depressing the pedal. Tim McGivern, lanky, a quick-talker and antsy was careening back to his childhood home with his wife Syrah, and all their belongings in tow.
He wasn’t sure what to expect, it had been a few years since he left for California. But that was no more.
Tim had been counting down the miles since the Pacific, and adding up the road signs along the way: 90. 95 North. 128. 114 East. Then the familiar struck him: salt-tinged air wafted in through the open windows.
Some things don’t change much in your absence. Or they do imperceptibly like mountains; rocks might slough off but the general shape remains. Others turn course dramatically, like the development in up-and-coming North Shore towns near the Atlantic.
When Tim left, The Promised Land was one of the largest concentrations of boulders north of Boston. 500 problems, a gem, and his hometown crag. Now it was a bunch of townhouses. The subdivisions sprawled out like a swollen river after the spring thaw, submerging and washing away a once pristine boulder field. A permanent landscape alteration.
“I was incensed,” Tim says upon learning about The Promised Land.
“It bugged me. A lot of local crags around here, on the Eastern side of [Massachusetts], they didn’t receive much attention for clean up and care. I saw a void before I left, but didn’t do anything then,” he says.
When he returned, the need for climbing area stewardship in Southeast New England became clear.
“Advocacy doesn’t just happen.”– Tim McGivern
Historically, the crags in the urban 95 loop around Boston were seen as a training ground for bigger objectives elsewhere. They were nice to haves and weren’t given the same oversight as better known places in Western Mass. and New Hampshire. Home spots like Quincy Quarries became tarnished and tagged with graffiti or remained underdeveloped like Lynn Woods.
Tim saw that if climbers weren’t paying attention the land that housed their beloved boulders and cliffs could get sold, fenced off, and even destroyed.
So he took a stand. He wasn’t going to let what happened to The Promised Land occur again.
The Southeast New England Climbers Coalition (SNECC) was started by Tim and Dave Twardowski in 2017 with the mission to “preserve climbing areas for present and future generations of climbers.”
The group has grown to include Shannon McFarland, Ryan Bouldin, Courtney Cutler, Pete Sancianco and Patrick Montague on the Board of Directors, along with an active membership.
They are working towards efforts from land protection (The Promised Land, Quincy Quarries), to access, (Bartholomew Pond), to awareness (Lynn Woods Boulder Bash, New Englands first outdoor bouldering competition), and a Regional Stewardship Plan in order to effect change on a larger scale.
“Advocacy doesn’t just happen,” Tim says. “The more I talk with climbers the more I realize they don’t understand this.”
With the rise in popularity of climbing and ever greater attendance at outdoor crags, stewardship is more important than ever.
According to the Access Fund, “1 in 5 climbing areas in the United States is threatened by an access issue—whether its private land lost to development, public land managers over-regulating climbing, or climber impacts degrading the environment.”
The challenge comes down to one basic tenet: Climbing requires rock, which is often on private land and easy to lose.
Tim advocates that protection requires participation, in being custodians to the areas we frequent, and supporting efforts like SNECC who work at a municipal and regulatory level for long-term solutions. Without engagement climbers have no voice and beloved climbing areas can be inalterably changed, like at The Promised Land.
Want to get involved, become a member, or learn more?