Talks stalled in lifting Auburn Quarry climbing ban

Group waiting for final agreement
By: Amber Marra, Journal Staff Writer
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Access to the Auburn Quarry's steep cliffs continues to be restricted as a local climbing group waits on a concession agreement with the landowner and park officials.

The Climbing Resource Advocates for Greater Sacramento, or CRAGS, has been working with the Auburn State Recreation Area and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to try to reinstate rock climbing at the Cave Valley Climbing Area, otherwise known as the Auburn Quarry.

The Auburn Quarry has been off limits to climbers since 2003.

CRAGS has been pushing for the Auburn State Recreation Area to allow at least partial access and officials with the area were reviewing a general plan and agreement with the climbing group last month.

Ellen Trescott, executive director of CRAGS, said under the agreement her organization would be responsible for maintaining the Auburn Quarry climbing area, including a bathroom that was recently installed there.

It was hoped that the quarry would be open to climbers on weekends and holidays by mid-to-late September, but that has been pushed back as CRAGS and the Auburn State Recreation Area finalize the agreement and wait to hear from the Bureau of Reclamation, which owns the land.

"We are on the verge of reopening the quarry," Trescott said. "We have negotiated a contract and a special use permit, but we're waiting on the Bureau of Reclamation to concur with the arrangement we've made with state parks and that's taken a lot longer than expected."

Matt Green, Gold Fields District Superintendent, said the concession contract with CRAGS is still being negotiated.

"They have a real interest and they're a responsible organization, so that's really good, and there seems to be a constituency that wants to climb in the area, so put those things together and it could work with the bureau's permission," Green said.

Trescott said more than $9,000 has been raised by CRAGS members through donations and fundraisers to reopen the quarry to climbers. That money will be used to maintain the area, but Green said any safety and enforcement of rules in the Auburn Quarry would still fall on park rangers.

The area will continue to remain off limits to climbers until the agreement is finalized. A violation for climbing in a restricted area can result in a fine that can range between $250 and $1,000.

Rob Trelford, volunteer coordinator with CRAGS, said he hopes climbers won't indulge in climbing in the area until it is legal.

"Everyone was concerned that people are going to go out there and see that no one is around and climb," Trelford said. "We're worried they might be ticketed."

Trescott said there has been some misinformation circulated online about the status of the quarry and that CRAGS has tried to address that as it comes. She said the group has also worked with recreation officials on the matter.

"We ask that climbers wait until it is officially open," Trescott said. "We think rangers should know climbers are not intentionally violating the ban, but it has caused some confusion and frustration with the climbing community."

Trescott could not say exactly when the quarry will be open for climbing again, but she and Green both hope for it to be sometime in the next month. A fundraiser for access to the quarry area will be held via the Reel Rock Tour on Nov. 16 at The Stonehouse in Nevada City.

"We have lots of volunteers lined up and we're really excited, but unfortunately things have been held up for a couple of weeks," she said.

Contact Amber Marra at Follow her on Twitter @Amber_AJNews.