Courtesy of Zachary Lesch-Huie
Moss Rock boulder clean up
Volunteers wash away graffiti at Moss Rock.
Graffiti had increased and walkways were washing away at Moss Rock Preserve, but it turns out it was nothing a little hard work and Elephant Snot couldn’t fix.
Friends of Moss Rock Preserve and other volunteers spent their Saturdays in June assisting Chip Powell and Lindsey Anderson of Access Fund to remove graffiti, reinforce a trail network and combat erosion at the Moss Rock Boulder Fields. Two more volunteer days remain: Saturday July 2 and July 9 beginning at 9 a.m.
Access Fund, a Boulder, Colorado-based climbing organization, announced in May that it was partnering with the Southeastern Climbers Coalition to use a grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham to begin a three-year stewardship initiative. That initiative, meant to improve climbing areas in the region, is called the Greater Birmingham Climbing Resource Improvement Project.
“Moss Rock Preserve is a really historic boulder area in the Deep South, and this seemed like a great opportunity to partner with an area we have some history with,” said Ty Tyler, Access Fund’s national stewardship director.
While the boulder fields are only four of 349 acres at Moss Rock, they receive 99 percent of the preserves’ use, according Collin Conner, Hoover city forester. Since the city took over the preserve in the early 2000s, the once “hidden jewel” grew in popularity over time, leading to deterioration and graffiti being spread across the boulders.
On June 4, the Powell and Anderson, who are the Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team No. 2, hosted their first Adopt a Crag volunteer day at Moss Park. A group of 16 volunteers combined to remove 110 square feet of graffiti using a biodegradable chemical called Elephant Snot and restored 120 linear feet of social trail. The volunteer days since have cleaned up hundreds more square feet of rock.
Conner recognized graffiti removal was the largest focus needed to begin the project to restore a family-friendly environment and provided a pressure washer and other assistance from the city.
Aside from graffiti cleanup, the conservation team moved rocks and used other natural materials to define trails and improve erosion control infrastructure and storm water quality.
“You’d be amazed the amount of work the two of them can turn out. They’re doing it by hand – breaking rock, rolling it downhill by hand and setting it in place by hand,” Conner said. “It feels better when it looks as it should and kind of how it is created. It gives it a better overall experience.”
The three-year project will complete its first phase July 16 as Powell and Anderson will move on to Washington for a short stay before taking on a 12-week project in Salt Lake City. Another conservation team will return to the Birmingham area October 26-29 to hopefully begin a project at the Trussville Sports Complex. The team is scheduled to return to Alabama in March 2017 for a 10-week stay, working in Trussville, Palisades Park in Blount County and a four-week stint at Moss Rock. The project will conclude in early 2018 with another 10-week stretch at Palisades, and then will move on to Steele, Alabama before returning to finalize work at Moss Rock.
“The Greater Birmingham region really has some great climbing opportunities,” Tyler said. “We want to highlight those opportunities and encourage people to get outside, get involved and learn a little more about rock climbing. We see this as an opportunity to expand some use and encourage people to visit the area.”
Those interested in participating in one of the July volunteer days with Access Fund can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and confirmation.
Conner says the project has already re-inspired the climbing community to volunteer and hopes the city will maintain the work done this summer. Volunteers interested in helping during the year can email Ken Wills of the Friends of Moss Rock at email@example.com or call 205-515-9412.