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Climbing to better our parks

Elephant Rocks State Park is safer and cleaner thanks to a group of volunteers from BETA Fund, a club of dedicated outdoor free climbing enthusiasts.

“We partnered with a group called the BETA Fund which is a very dedicated group of outdoor climbing enthusiasts,” Missouri State Parks Natural Resource Manager Bryan Bethel said. “They only free climb with no ropes or other invasive tools.”

Bethel said since the climbers do not use anything that would damage the rocks they are allowed to climb in several Missouri State Parks.

“In fact we are about to finalize a memorandum of understanding between Missouri State Parks and the BETA Fund which would streamline the permitting of climbing in our parks for the members of the club,” Bethel said. “In return they will be helping us with clean up and other volunteer projects.”

On Dec. 1, club members assisted in carrying 20 foot timbers up the trail to the overlook of the park. 

“My staff then cut and installed them into the safety rail of the overlook,” Bethel said. “While this was going on other members were picking up trash.”

Bethel said the group collected nine big bags of trash and then went on to help staff trim trees along the trail working to remove anything that may be a safety hazard. 

“I can tell you that I have been very impressed by the commitment and dedication of the club members both to their sport and to helping our parks,” Bethel said. “To have 25 individuals from all over the state and Midwest show up on a dreary cold December day to volunteer in a park is a huge turnout.”

The group accomplished three great projects by the end of the day and still had time to do some climbing.

“All of us with BETA Fund are thrilled to partner with Elephant Rocks State Park and all of Missouri State Parks,” BETA Fund Board Member Kevin McCarthy said. “BETA Fund is 100 percent volunteer-based, non-profit organization committed to preserving climbing access, safety and the environment in which climbers recreate.”

McCarthy said the board is primarily centered in the St. Louis area, but consist of engaged volunteers throughout Missouri, Illinois and Arkansas.

“Elephant Rocks State Park is one of the best climbing areas in Missouri and all of the Midwest,” McCarthy said. “The unique granite boulders are critically important to climbers and we want to do our part to preserve the park and ensure climbing access is available for generations.”

McCarthy said free climb enthusiasts are more active in the winter months due to lack of moisture on their hands. Adding that this is a great way to fill the park during the slower months of the year.

For more information on state parks and historic sites, visit mostateparks.com and for more information on BETA Fund visit www.betafund.org

A group of climbing enthusiast volunteers from the BETA Fund assisted in improvements at Elephant Rocks State Park.

A group of climbing enthusiast volunteers from the BETA Fund assisted in improvements at Elephant Rocks State Park.

Volunteers carry 20 foot timbers up the trail to the overlook at Elephant Rocks State Park where staff then cut and installed them to make a safety rail.

Volunteers carry 20 foot timbers up the trail to the overlook at Elephant Rocks State Park where staff then cut and installed them to make a safety rail.

Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at vkemper@democratnewsonline.com

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