Summit Rock Breakthough: Permits & Volunteer Monitors


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Bruce Morris

Social climber
Belmont, California
Topic Author's Original Post - Aug 1, 2013 - 03:40pm PT
Hello STers:

The following message I received this morning from Paul Minault at the Access Fund is self-explanatory. Santa Clara County Parks wants to re-open Summit Rock in Sanborn County Parks to climbing during the peregrine non-nesting season, but wants volunteers to monitor that process on site. Those interested in volunteering, should checkout the contact information at the bottom of this message for Ranger Fred Glines, who is functioning as the main point of contact for administering the volunteer program to educate climbers about the nesting peregrines at Summit.

This is really good news incidentally and has taken several years of negotiating to work out. In any case, it looks like we're going to get Summit Rock back for climbing during the non-nesting season, which will restore recreational access to almost 50% of the climbing resources in Santa Clara County. Kudos to Paul Minault and the Access Fund!

Dear Climbers interested in Summit Rock,

The Access Fund is supporting the concept of a permit system for climbing at Summit Rock outside the nesting season in order to allow climbing to resume. As part of this program, County Parks is asking the climbing community to provide volunteer monitors to help monitor the behavior of the birds and educate climbers on how to behave around the birds. Would you please consider joining in this effort and encouraging others to do so. A solid response from the climbing community will help show the importance of Summit Rock to climbers. It is my hope that after a year or two of monitoring, it will be found unnecessary to continue. At this time, I have no details on the permit program.

Please contact me with any questions about the Access Fund's position and contact Senior Ranger Flint Giles about the volunteer position (see his contact info below).

I am also asking the AF in Boulder to include this request in the monthly Vertical Times and on the AF website.

Thanks, Paul

-------- Original Message

Subject: Sanborn Park, Summit Rock
Date: Thu, 1 Aug 2013 10:39:30 -0700
From: McCulloch, Daniel <Daniel.McCulloch@PRK.SCCGOV.ORG>
To: '' <>
CC: Glines, Flint <Flint.Glines@PRK.SCCGOV.ORG>, Rocha, Don <Don.Rocha@PRK.SCCGOV.ORG>, Gill, Gloria <Gloria.Gill@PRK.SCCGOV.ORG>

Paul Minault ,
We are planning to open Summit Rock located in Sanborn Park this year to permit holders only. This is a pilot program and we think it will be successful. However we do not have the staff to operate and educate the general public so we are calling on volunteers who may have a particular interest in this site or park in general to help us out. Could you distribute the below job description to Access Fund (advocacy group for climbers) Members interested in volunteering and educating the public on the Summit Rock site. We are hoping to get a decent volunteer presents for this season and with your help I think we have a good shot.
&n bsp;

Volunteer Wildlife Monitor-Summit Rock
Job Description:
County of Santa Clara, Department of Parks and Recreation is seeking volunteers to assist with the monitoring of special-use permit, recreational activities in a sensitive habitat environment, and monitor and document behaviors of peregrine falcons during the non-breeding season of the peregrine falcon utilizing Summit Rock (September 1 through December 31 of each year). Parks is seeking to re-open Summit Rock during limited periods of the day (Thursday-Sunday) from 8AM-4PM to permit-holders only. Parks is seeking volunteers to assist with educating the public that the area is only open to permit-holders and assist with monitoring and documenting the behavior of the peregrine falcons during this time of restricted access. Selected, interested volunteers will be required to attend a training on peregrine falcon behavior, recording collected data, radio usage and customer service/contact. This is not an enforcement position, however it is expected that the on-site volunteer will contact users and notify them of the required permit. The volunteer will educate non-permit users and educate them on the permit process, and notify Park Ranger staff for enforcement needs.
Ability to hike in remote, rugged areas off-trail to observation locations.
Strenuous hiking required, with poor footing
Ability to make contact with park users
Operate a park radio
Able to observe and document bird behavior

Typical Duties:
Shifts are starting at 8AM. Parks is looking to cover shifts from 8AM-4PM Thursday-Sunday September 1-December 31 each year to monitor this pilot program (typical shifts are in blocks of 4-6 hours).

If you have any questions,
Senior Ranger Flint Glines will be the Main Point of Contact for Summit Rock Volunteers


Aug 1, 2013 - 04:17pm PT
That sounds very promising - nice work, Bruce!
Bruce Morris

Social climber
Belmont, California
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 5, 2013 - 03:33pm PT
Paul Minault also tells me that there is a plan in place to install a new gate at the Summit Rock Parking Lot to discourage nighttime partying.

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Aug 5, 2013 - 03:45pm PT
looking forward to using the area. The volunteer thing is odd, but i guess it is a step? How do we get permits?


Trad climber
Bay Area
Aug 5, 2013 - 09:55pm PT
Good going Bruce, although climbing permits would be a first for anyplace I know of. And could be the start down a "slippery slope" of permits at other parks.

How is the horrid mess of graffiti going to be cleaned up? The west face of Summit Rock looks as bad as an abandoned railway car in a slum.

Please keep us posted.

Paul Minault also tells me that there is a plan in place to install a new gate at the Summit Rock Parking Lot to discourage nighttime partying.
That of course is an excellent idea, not only for Summit Rock but also for us neighbors.

Social climber
Joshua Tree
Aug 5, 2013 - 10:11pm PT
Tallulah Gorge State Park in Georgia requires (free) climbing permits, and limit it to 20 climbers/day. Not something I advocate or support, but it does exist.

Sounds like a lot of holes in this program. What if an army of volunteers don't materialize (which seems highly unlikely to me given the extent of coverage they're seeking)?

Bruce Morris

Social climber
Belmont, California
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 23, 2013 - 04:01pm PT
Received this email from Paul Minault of the Access Fund announcing the re-opening of Summit Rock to climbing using a permit system administered by Santa Clara County Parks:

All, As of Oct 4, Summit Rock at Sanborn County Park is open to climbing seasonally on weekends under a free permit system limiting access to 35 people a day, subject to the results of an ongoing peregrine/climber monitoring program. (See Don Rocha's email below.) Climbers interested in climbing there can call the parks dept. reservation line at 408-355-2201, give their contact info. and receive the free permit immediately by email. The parking lot is gated (and presumably locked at night), so hopefully this will put an end to the youth partying, trash and graffiti that have plagued the park for decades.

It has taken a long time to get here, and all who have worked to make this possible should be congratulated. Joe, can you please post this info on the AF website. I expect there will be an evaluation of this at the end of this climbing season and will let you know what comes out of that.

Thanks, Paul Minault

-------- Original Message

Subject: Re: Summit Rock permits
Date: Wed, 23 Oct 2013 11:42:41 -0700
From: Paul Minault
To: Rocha, Don
CC: Robb Courtney

Don, OK, Thanks, and thank you for making the closure adjustable based on breeding behaviors. And I'm glad the parking lot is gated and hope that helps out with the midnight partying problem. At some point, I'd like to see a volunteer day organized to get rid of all the grafitti there, and I'm sure climbers would be interested in that. I know some of the climber/volunteer monitors have already been working on the trash.

I'm not sure why I didn't get your messages. I presume these were on my voice mail, which had some problems a while ago.

BTW, I went on your website to see if I could get a permit. First I noticed that Summit Rock is not included among the closed sites listed on your website. Then I found I couldn't get the permit/reservation from the website, since it only covered campsites at Sanborn, not climbing. Then I called the general number shown on the Contact Us portion of the website and after listening to the long voice mail, punched the right number to get the recording for the closure at Summit and listened to that for the reservation number to call. Then I called the reservation number and got the permit. I think the total lapsed time was 10 minutes or more. I'd suggest adding Summit to the list of closures, so people are aware of that, and making the climbing permit available from the website. Also, I don't think people automatically equate a climbing "permit" with a "reservation," (I was unsure myself) so adding some language on the website (such as labeling the reservation number "Reservations/Permits") would be helpful.

Anyway, I hope all this is working out and would appreciate being kept in the loop for further information as this situation develops. Thanks again, Paul

I believe Tresa Black is actively seeking climbers to go out with her to Summit this coming weekend to legally climb on Summit for the first time since 2009(?). As Paul notes there does seem to be some trouble using the reservation hotline, but with persistence it can be done.

Here is Ranger Don Rocha's original email to Paul Minault announcing the reopening:

On 10/22/2013 8:46 PM, Rocha, Don wrote:
I left you a couple of messages a month or so ago. We re-opened Summit Rock to 35 permits/day, Thursday-Sunday, 9-4PM on Oct 4th. The non-breeding season has been defined as Oct 1-Jan 15, with adjustments based on observed breeding behaviors. The Summit Rock parking lot is now gated. We have volunteer site observers on site who are monitoring/observing falcon behaviors and monitoring and educating permitted users. A few of our volunteers are climbers and have been spreading the word on Summit Rock's seasonal opening.

-----Original Message

From: Paul Minault []
Sent: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 2:03 PM
To: Rocha, Don
Cc: Courtney, Robb
Subject: Summit Rock status

Don, I'm getting inquiries as to when Summit Rock will be open under the permit system. Would you please let me know so we can post that on our website and inform local climbers. Thanks, Paul Minault

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
Oct 23, 2013 - 04:12pm PT
free permit system limiting access to 35 people a day

IMHO.... Total BS..

why do we give our public servants the power to make such arbitrary decisions for us?

Good work Bruce, how you can work with folks who think like that, i'll never know.

But thank you.
Bruce Morris

Social climber
Belmont, California
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 23, 2013 - 04:54pm PT
Here is the current posting regarding volunteers at Summit on the Access Fund site:¬oc=1

You will note that at the Santa Clara County Parks web site there is no mention of climbing as an approved recreational activity at Summit or Indian Rocks:

They sure aren't blowing any horns about the reopening of Summit, but they did contact Paul Minault and the Access Fund about it. That's a "best effort" on their part me thinks. But it sure seems that SCCPs is not advertising climbing as one of the approved recreational activities at Summit and Indian Rocks. Hiking, biking, camping, horse back riding, yes. Not a word about climbing and bouldering at Sanborn County Park, however. Tresa Black does say she's looking for people to go out there with her this weekend and do some rock climbing.

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
Oct 23, 2013 - 07:32pm PT
When I lived in San Jose that was the most common place I went climbing. Loved it!

Definitely great progress to get a partial opening. I'm curious about the early time of day for closure in the summer. Probably going to be some cranky folks walking out before 5 pm when there are 4 more hours of daylight left. Why not just have a policy like "closed at sunset" which various other parks employ? (e.g. Mt Diablo in northern california, Mission Gorge near San Diego). Then you get a ticket when your car is locked in the gate and have to wait for the ranger to come escort you out.

I used to go climbing there on weekday mornings before work too... arrive at 6-6:30am. It was very quiet and peaceful. Looks like that option is gone for people who have jobs during standard business hours.

Is this just a matter of getting the program accepted as is, and then over time making adjustments such as the reasonable time expansions I outlined above? Or should there be more aggressive lobbying now to start with more reasonable hours?
Bruce Morris

Social climber
Belmont, California
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 24, 2013 - 01:42pm PT
Have to get some people up there climbing this weekend, Nut. Then, we can start talking about expanding the climbing hours from dawn to sunset. I think the trouble is that the powers-that-be regard climbers, party-ers and graffi artists as all part of a general class they define as "hooligans". More climber-SCCPs interaction should dispel that stereotyping.

This whole story would be perfect to get into the local papers, showing climbers, ornithologists and SCCP rangers interacting and working out a compromise solution. This would showcase climbing as a legitimate recreational activity at Summit and Indian. The San Jose Mercury News and the Palo Alto Weekly would both be good venues for presenting such a story I think. Wonder how you would tip them off and get them interesting in the story?
Bruce Morris

Social climber
Belmont, California
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 24, 2013 - 04:29pm PT
Bump to get more climbers to go out to Summit Rock on the weekends. Use it or lose it.
Bruce Morris

Social climber
Belmont, California
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 25, 2013 - 12:56am PT
bumpity bump.

Oct 25, 2013 - 10:28am PT
I think the permit system/volunteer watch dog is going to be the solution to access in the long run for many areas as land managers observe incidents like the Kindling/ Pringltree debacle.
Bruce Morris

Social climber
Belmont, California
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 25, 2013 - 02:23pm PT
But the peregrines nesting (unsuccessfully mind you) at Summit Rock are more of a pretext for reducing visitation along Skyline Boulevard (US 35) and have nothing to do with conserving the area in its "natural" state. Prof. Byron White of Brigham Young University, one of the leading experts on peregrines in the whole universe, has already testified to Santa Clara County Parks and the SC Parks and Recreation Commission that the peregrines at Summit are not bothered by climbers there, especially in the non-nesting season. He also pointed out to them that the site where the peregrines are nesting is a very poor one and subject to predation by tree rats, raccoons and owls. That's why the peregrines have had to fledge three times in a row without success.

The real reason for the Summit Rock closure? To keep people from visiting and using Sanborn Skyline County Park (not to protect the 'natural habitat' as the wording of the SCP's Trails Master Plan would suggest). Protecting "natural habitat" is merely a pretext to reduce the number of people going to Summit Rock. Trouble is that climbers are being lumped together with the bottle breakers, party-ers, and graffiti 'artists' that have been trashing the place while the closure order was in effect. To the best of my knowledge, there hasn't been a new route put up at Summit Rock since 1993. And in the meanwhile climbers, REI, Planet Granite and the Access Fund have been staging periodic cleanups of the glass and garbage at Summit for years and years.

The only real result of the 2009 closure has been that party-ers and vandals have had free run at Summit during the night time hours. Without climbers there, Summit Rock and environs have become 10 times more trashed than they were when climbers recreated there.

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
Oct 25, 2013 - 02:30pm PT
Bruce.... sounds like a grass roots campain is needed, are these "supervisors" (really our public servants) elected????

It sounds to me like some folks want a "private" park.

Keep up the good fight..... We have our own fight down here.

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
Oct 25, 2013 - 02:34pm PT

This is a really key point Bruce. What is the park plan to stop bottle breakers and party folks in the middle of the night? Maybe you can help newspapers make a profile of silicon valley cubicle jockeys who go climbing on the weekends or before/after work, and distinguish these folks from the drunken revelers throwing bottles at night. Then show how the more respectful folks are being locked out and policed, while the main threats to the area remain unimpeded at night time.

I appreciate your efforts. If I was still living in SF Bay area I'd go climbing there this weekend. But I'm 375 miles away :)

I am up in the area 2-3 weekends per month with my kids, and if/when they get more solid and interested in climbing, Summit Rock is a place I'd love to take them.
Bruce Morris

Social climber
Belmont, California
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 25, 2013 - 02:47pm PT
If there is a "plan" to stop the bottle breakers and late night drunks, it involves building a gate at the Summit Rock Parking Lot, so that nocturnal visitors will no longer be able to park there. Unfortunately, there is another all-night parking lot about a 1/3rd of a mile back toward the intersection of US 9 and Skyline Blvd. at Saratoga Gap. The new gate won't stop party-ers from parking there and walking in to Summit after hours. I've heard that the gate is already in place but haven't seen it yet.

Then show how the more respectful folks are being locked out and policed, while the main threats to the area remain unimpeded at night time.

Excellent point, Nut! The closure order unfairly penalizes climbers without really addressing the problem of after hours vandalism with spray paint and bottles. The San Jose Mercury News and the Palo Alto Weekly would be excellent places to showcase the controversy. But since the Access Fund has got SCCPs to allow climbing on weekends, at this point I think it would be best to keep the powder dry and adopt a wait and see approach before going to the newspapers and the SC Board of Supervisors.

I know that Tresa Black et al. have got a permit to climb at Summit and are going out there tomorrow (Sat. Oct. 26) and that some other people have booked Summit on November 4th. The volunteers are, I think, climbers themselves, so let's keep Summit booked up through the test period and go from there. Summit is a big area. There are certainly a lot of routes to do out there besides University of Santa Clara Practice Climb #1 without intruding on the peregrine nesting site.

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Oct 26, 2013 - 12:11am PT
I used to climb at Summit Rock quite a bit in the winter season so when I heard that it was opening up again I put together I small group and headed out there the first weekend they opened.

When we got there the new gate was closed but the ranger pulled in right behind us and opened the gate for us. We were actually there a little early, but the ranger (Holly) was nice and let us in early. The first thing I noticed after the gate was that the parking area is newly graded so no more deep potholes to navigate if you are in a low clearance vehicle.

We parked and the ranger told us that the new online permit system isn't functioning properly yet so she said she would provide us with a permit for the day. She then drove up to the inner gate to open it for us.

We hiked in and the first thing you see at the top of the hill is the rock is now decorated with a huge pot leaf right in the middle of all the new graffiti. The area up here was cleaner that usual, but the garbage can at the base of the uphill to get here is no longer there. My explanation is people are more likely to take there garbage out if there isn't a garbage can there.

Anyway, we continued down to the base of the climbs and that's when you start noticing the destruction caused by the riff-raff that sneak in after hours. The rock is covered with so much more graffiti down by the climbs, something that there wasn't much of before they closed the area. The two that ugliest graffiti scribblings say FK YOU BIRD AND FK VAGINAS. According to the ranger I spoke with on the phone today the cliffs were sandblasted once already and these were new tags that happened before the area was reopened.

The next thing I noticed was the insane amount of broken glass all over the place. It was bad before the closure, but this was much worse and in many areas I had to clean off broken glass before I could even walk across. Somewhere along the descent I found a gallon water jug so I cut a handsized hold in the top of it and used it to collect the broken glass. I ended up filling the jug to the top with just the glass at the base of the climbs we did where we had our rope tarps.

We ended up setting up maybe 8 total climbs, with a couple of the bolted leads. The bolted anchors at the top fairly solid still, but some of the chains and quicklinks are pretty rusty now from lack of use. Overall the climbs still look in pretty good shape except two climbs had beer cans lodged in the cracks like a chockstone and one climb had a broken bottle on a ledge that my partner almost put his hand on when we reached for a hold on the ledge.

Overall it was a good day of climbing, though it was pretty cold since not much sun can get down to the base this time of year.

One of the rangers, Eddie, came down to the base and watched us climb for awhile. I spoke with for a little bit and he seemed like a pretty nice guy. Overall, all the rangers I spoke with and met were really friendly (unlike the ranger who likes to harass people at Castle Rock). Note: Summit Rock, I just learned, is not part of Castle Rock State Park. It is part of Santa Clara County Parks and Rec so that might be a good thing for climbers since Castle Rock area has been taken over by commercial guiding.

One good thing I noticed was the low amount of garbage other than glass. I only found a few water bottles and a little bit of trash. According to the "climbing ranger" I spoke with on the phone they try to clean up garbage when they see it. They seem to be doing a pretty good job.

Anyway, while we were there I spoke with ranger Holly about coordinating volunteer cleanup events with other climbers and she provided a volunteer packet. I found out I could fill it out online so I did. I contacted them by phone, but never received a call back so I called again today and was able to get ahold of Mark, who is the point person for Summit Rock and who I referred to as the "climbing ranger" since he is also a climber.

We talked for nearly an hour about the history of what caused the closures (the peregrines nesting) and how now that the park is open they are really looking for volunteers from Thurs - Sun to help monitor traffic in the area and maybe to provide permits. I don't recall all that since I am not really able to do that, but we discussed what I and others might be able to do.

I mentioned that I wanted to organize a climber cleanup event this weekend and he informed me that they are understaffed and really rely on volunteer help to manage the area so they are going to close Summit Rock this weekend (not sure for how much longer) to the general public (ie. not open the inner gate). He did say though that my group will be allowed in to do our volunteer cleanup.

So if we want to keep the area open, I think us climbers need to step up and make our presence known and help in any way we are able. Climbing ranger Mark believes that the area is much better off when climbers are there so maybe some of you out there can join in.

Thanks for listening,

Stan H

PS. does anybody know how I can get ahold of this Tresa Black who is mentioned earlier in this thread?

Bruce Morris

Social climber
Belmont, California
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 26, 2013 - 01:40am PT
Tresa is on Facebook and there must be some contact info. inside her guidebook to the Bay.

We used to always carry a big shop broom out there each time we went to Summit and used it to sweep up the glass. It collects in certain spots more than others. Pretty dangerous when it's laying on top of key climbing holds.

Certainly ironic that the closure for peregrine nesting didn't keep anyone out of there except the very people that police and clean up the site; that is, the climbers.

Good that you got to go out there and climb even if the rocks and environs weren't exactly in pristine shape. Important first step. Glad the on site SCP Rangers were friendly. That means that climbing will probably work out there. Great! Thanks for the long report and your good clean up intentions.
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