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Toronto Section Access History

History of the Access Committee and the Toronto Section

The Access Committee of the Toronto Section of the Alpine Club of Canada was originally formed in the 1980s by concerned climbers who found themselves collaborating with provincial parks, the Niagara Escarpment Commission, regional conservation authorities and the Ministry of Natural Resources in solving complex access issues. The Access Committee provided a common voice for climbers. In consideration of the ACC's Access and Environment Policy, the Access Committee was charged with representing the climbing community in negotiations with land owners, conservation authorities and provincial bodies concerning continued access to climbing locations in Southern Ontario.

In the late 2000s the Toronto Section Access Committee worked with other concerned Ontario climbers to form the Ontario Access Coalition (OAC). The OAC, which was incorporated in 2009, now takes the lead on representing the climbing community on access issues. The Toronto Section continues to work with the OAC and strongly supports this important work for the climbing community.

Historically, in the 1990s much work was done by the Access Committee. The ACC has long been involved with the Peregrine Falcon Release Program at Bon Echo and Killarney Park. The ACC helped with a survey of native rock pictographs at Bon Echo, trained fire and rescue personnel within the Halton Region Conservation Authority (HRCA) area and assisted in clean-up days to remove decades of garbage from the base of the HRCA cliffs. The researchers involved with the Bon Echo Cliff Face Study and the University of Guelph Cliff Face Ecology Group were trained climbers. Today, the ACC Toronto Section continues to take the lead in the Bon Echo access file on behalf of the OAC.

The Access Committee always believed that regulations affecting climbing resources or practices were acceptable only if they followed from discussions and agreement between climbers and land managers. Alternatives to regulation, such as voluntary self regulation, were fully explored as options to formal regulation. With self-regulation, however, the Access Committee also believed that the negotiation of a climbing management plan with a land manager was preferable to losing a climbing resource in Southern Ontario.

Success depended on cooperation and discussion between climbers and land managers which resulted in climbing management plans based on mutual agreement. Such policies continue to ensure effective compliance and enforcement. The Access Committee worked with the climbing community to recognize and to limit the impacts of their climbing practices on the environment, other climbers, land managers and other users.

It is important for climbers to understand their own responsibility for their own acceptance of risk. The Ontario Occupier's Liability Act states that "The duty of care ... does not apply in respect of risks willingly assumed by the person who enters the premises". The act considers that the signing of a liability waiver signifies that the Occupier has taken "reasonable steps" to bring this limitation to the attention of the entrant. Many land managers now require climbers to sign waivers, and the Access Committee has always supported policy if it maintains access to a climbing resource. It is the position of the Access Committee that climbers have an ethical and legal responsibility to assume the risk for their own activities.

The Access Committee of the Toronto Section of the Alpine Club of Canada has a successful history in negotiating climbing management plans and agreements with a number of jurisdictions. A Memorandum of Agreement is in place with Bon Echo Provincial Park to allow climbing to take place under strict guidelines. The cliff at Bon Echo is in a Nature Preserve Zone, while climbing is a banned activity in Provincial Nature Preserve Zones, the committee has been able to conclusively demonstrate through research (c.f. "Life Science Inventory of the Mazinaw Rock Cliff face at Bon Echo Provincial Park", Duggan & Associates) that climbing has negligible impact on the environmental resource at Bon Echo.

The Access Committee came to the first agreement with the Niagara Glen Parks on allowing climbing to take place in the boulder slopes rising from the Niagara River (it had previously been banned). Climbing on the Niagara Glen headwall is still closed by mutual agreement as the rock is friable and a danger to both climbers and hikers alike. The OAC continues to work on this relationship with the landowner as the status continues to evolve.

The climbing community provincially, nationally, and internationally has worked very hard to cooperate with landowners in managing climbing activities. There is an established history of mutual understanding of environmental and liability issues. Multinational publications inform climbers of current access issues; locally, a strong program of information distribution by the OAC is keeping climbers informed of the concerns expressed by landowners and managers that must be and will be respected.