New amendment may allow rock climbing on private property in Signal Mountain

With local interest in the sport of bouldering steadily climbing, the Signal Mountain Town Council recently unanimously passed on first reading an amendment to an ordinance that had previously banned climbing within town limits.

If the amendment passes on second reading at the February meeting, scheduled for Feb. 11, climbing will be legal on private property within the town of Signal Mountain. However, “It shall be unlawful for any person to climb or rappel from any bluff or rock formation located on publically owned municipal property within the town of Signal Mountain,” according to the amended ordinance.

Several residents showed up for the first vote Jan. 14 in support of removing the ban on climbing within the town completely.

“I have never been involved in another sport or group of people that embody safety like climbers do,” said Stephanie Daniels, of Spy Glass Farm. “We [as climbers] would really like to be a bigger part of the community.”

She added that it seems “incongruous” that Signal Mountain would enforce a ban on climbing when it is located so near Chattanooga, a city that seems to have fully embraced the sport. She said she thinks if climbing were allowed in the mountaintop town, area climbers would be lured up, likely eating at local restaurants and shopping in Signal stores.

Local resident Theresa Averbeck agreed with Daniels’ sentiments, saying that she and her family have been enjoying the recreation on Signal Mountain since they moved there.

“We can’t get enough of being in the woods, and I have seen rock climbing become a family activity,” said Averbeck. “It’s just a neat sport where the families become one.”

Climbing is a sport fit for anybody, young and old, she said, and she and her family work to take care of their climbing environment rather than destroy it.

“You leave [the environment] better than when you find it,” said Averbeck.

Concerns voiced by Town Attorney Phil Noblett and other council members involved liability for the town if someone were to get hurt, as well as the drain on emergency personnel resources if someone needed to be rescued.

Access Fund representative Zachary Lesch-Huie was present at the meeting to assure the Council of nonprofit climbing advocacy groups Access Fund and the Southeastern Climbers Coalition’s willingness to work with the town in the process of removing the ban, and beyond.

“Banning climbing completely is not the approach used by most other municipalities,” said Lesch-Huie. “I understand the risks involved, but why single out climbing when [other outdoor sports] can be just as or more dangerous? Climbing shouldn’t be on a list of criminal activities. It might fit better in a description of recreational resources of Signal Mountain.”

Council members seemed supportive of the residents’ goals, asking them to “keep coming back” to take more steps toward removing the ban completely. For now, officials said, this is a small step in the right direction.

“I admire your enthusiasm and passion for what you do,” said Councilman Dick Gee. “I personally support what you are trying to do. It looks like we are getting ready to take a step in your direction.”


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.