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Land Stewardship is Like Dating, or How I Fell In Love With the Gunks

Gunks Lovers – Romancing the Stone

Cliffmama on the top of a climb at the Gunks

I love this place!

I recall someone at a Mohonk Preserve event mentioning how Gunks climbers evolve over time. In the beginning they try to cheat and get around the ranger so they don’t have to pay for a day pass. Later they understand the need to help pay to maintain the preserve so they are willing to buy a day pass. As time goes on, they feel a stronger bond with the land and a stronger responsibility to take care of it. They become members, they donate more money and volunteer.

There are many types of relationships. Those that last and that are mutually beneficial to both parties involved are those which are loving and caring relationships. They are relationships where both people are always willing to communicate, enjoy pleasing each other, and feel a strong desire to take care of each other.

I see an analogy here between lovers and our relationship with the Gunks. Some climbers are just “dating.” They want to show up, have a good time, and leave. Get as much as possible out of the encounter without having to pay or make any commitments. They may actually do harm to the environment—but not necessarily maliciously, they are just not aware of the “hurt” that they cause. It’s all about a self-centered desire for a good time.

As time goes on and they continue to climb at the Gunks, it becomes one of their favorite places to climb. They’re willing to pay the tab, and enjoy gazing at the beauty. However, they aren’t ready to commit yet. There’s a strong fondness, but not a sense of responsibility.

A large group of volunteers who came to do trail maintenance with the Gunks Climbers' Coalition at Minnewaska State Park

Gunks Climbers’ Coalition Adopt-a-Crag trail maintenance volunteers

Gradually, they fall in love. They feel a responsibility towards the Gunks. They take pleasure in providing tender loving care to the land, the environment. They feel a sense of community with the others who are part of this climbing family. They communicate with the rangers, the landowners, and talk with the other land users to understand their impact on this land they love and try to find solutions on how they can lessen their impacts and improve the experience for all. Whether it be volunteering time or donating money, or even just spreading the message to others, they do what they can to help. They have fallen in love.

Let us fall in love with the Gunks and create a relationship that will stand the test of time.

And like the Janet Jackson song, your local climbing crag is singing “what have you done for me lately?”  So how have you been showing your crag some love?

♥ ♥ ♥

I originally wrote this article for publication in the 2004 Gunks Climbers’ Coalition Newsletter.  Then in 2008, I was honored to help accept the Mohonk Preserve’s Thom Scheuer Memorial Stewardship Award on behalf of the Gunks Climbers’ Coaltion at the annual New Paltz Climbing Film Festival.

The Gunks Climbers' Coalition receives Mohonk Preserve's Tom Scheuer Land Stewardship Award.



Permanent link to this article: https://cliffmama.com/blog/land-stewardship-gunks-love/

5 pings

  1. And So This Is Fifty » cliffmama.com

    […] Last weekend I gave myself a birthday party and invited my old college outing club friends and my friends from the Gunks climbing community. What a joy to have 60 friends come over to celebrate my birthday with me! A handful of out of town guests arrived Friday night and didn’t leave until Sunday night. They helped me clean up and washed many dishes after the party. The main party was a pot luck dinner Saturday night. I counted a total of 62 people including myself and my daughter. The Gunks climbing community is a close knit one, where many people know each other. Unlike areas like Colorado with many cliffs to choose from that spreads the climbing population out, the Gunks are pretty much the only quality cliff for miles around. So the same climbers come back to the Gunks over and over again and you’re likely to see the same climbers over and over again. I spent 17 years living in suburban NJ and never felt like I really belonged there. Here at the Gunks I really treasure the love and support from my climbing friends and really feel like I’m a part of the Gunks climbing community. […]

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