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OPTION TO BUY INDEX AREA CLIMBER’S PARADISE
May 26, 2009
(BOULDER, C0) -- The Access Fund has announced that an option agreement to purchase the 20-acre private holding at the Lower Index Town Wall area in Snohomish County has been secured.
This popular upper Sky Valley rock climbing area boasts several hundred high quality granite-climbing routes and is only an hour’s drive from Seattle. Its proximity to a major metro area like Seattle and its short 5 minute approach from the trailhead make this cliff line a popular after work or after school climbing destination for Seattle-Everett area climbers.
The Lower Index Town Wall was closed earlier this year when local climbers saw “No Trespassing” signs suddenly posted around the cliff.
The private landowner revoked access to the property after quarrying companies began displaying renewed interest in quarrying and granite removal. The structure of ownership for the property changed to a limited liability corporation and the landowner began negotiations for sale of the property to two interested quarrying companies.
Upon news of this change from the landowner, climbers quickly turned what might have been a threat to their sport into an opportunity.
The Access Fund, the only national advocacy organization that keeps climbing areas open and conserves the climbing environment, and Washington Climbers Coalition rallied together to research quarry regulations, comparable sales and title history to determine the best path forward.
Negotiations soon began to determine a fair market price and terms for a potential acquisition of the property by the climbing community.
Jonah Harrison, member of the Washington Climbers Coalition and volunteer regional coordinator for the Access Fund led negotiations with the landowner, with support from Joe Sambataro, Access Director at the Access Fund. Matt Perkins, Darryl Cramer, and Andy Fitz of Washington Climbers Coalition also played critical support roles.
After weeks of negotiations, the landowner agreed to an initial payment of $10,000 for an Option Agreement to purchase the property within 18 months. This agreement gives the Washington Climbers Coalition the sole right to purchase the property for long-term management, or assign the property to Washington State Parks.
This option payment was made possible by a loan from the Access Fund, giving the Washington Climbers Coalition and the local climbing community the time and ability to fundraise toward a set goal.
The American Alpine Club, as well as countless others, has offered their fundraising expertise to help complete the purchase. The Access Fund will continue to play a lead role with the Washington Climbers Coalition in transaction management, title work, and fundraising.
I a statement the Access Fund said that while the option agreement is secured and purchase price set, there are other longer-term issues that need to be addressed at the popular cliff.
“Project Index” will address proper sanitation and parking. A preliminary wetland study is already underway to determine if a new parking area and vault toilet can be located on State Park land in a central area for access to both the Lower Wall and Upper Wall.
Word of the final fundraising goal is expected to be released by August. In the meantime, the private landowner has agreed to reinstate public access during the 18-month option period, a privilege the climbing community can appreciate as summer in the Sky Valley unfolds.
History of the area
The Lower Index Town Wall and surrounding cliffs have a climbing history going back nearly 50 years. The cliffs are beloved by sport climbers, traditional climbers, aid climbers and boulderers alike.
Throughout the early part of the 20th century, the landowner’s family quarried parts of the Lower Town Wall for granite until the Burlington Northern railroad moved closer to the wall in the 1960s. Quarrying was put on hold, but ownership was maintained by the family heirs. Initial attempts were made by Washington State Parks and the Access Fund in 1999 to transfer the property to state park ownership, yet its high potential mineral value impeded any action at the time.
About the Access Fund
Since 1991, the Access Fund has been the only national advocacy organization that keeps climbing areas open and conserves the climbing environment. The Access Fund supports and represents over 1.6 million climbers nationwide in all forms of climbing: rock climbing, ice climbing, mountaineering, and bouldering.
Five core programs support the mission on national and local levels: climbing management policy, stewardship and conservation, local support and mobilization, land acquisition and protection, and education. For more information visit www.accessfund.org.