Feb 19, 2015, 6:42 AM
Post #1 of 1
Registered: Jun 3, 2003
I am presenting this information as a former board member and president of the Illinois Climbers Association. The longstanding ICA is being unjustly denied by the Access Fund the opportunity to purchase the Holy Boulders in southern Illinois. Instead, they are preparing to soon sell the property to a ~1-year-old Missouri-based non-profit organization called the Beta Fund.
I write this in defense of the ICA, who is remaining silent to the public on this matter due to what I believe is ďover-politenessĒ toward the Access Fund. The Access Fund staff has not made any public statements about this decision, nor has the Beta Fund. In fact, the Access Fund staff has asked me to remove my questioning of this in a post on the Southern IL Climbing Forum Facebook group. They were apparently hoping to wait to publicize the transaction until after-the-fact. There are many people who feel that their financial and labor support to the ICA in fundraising to purchase the Holy Boulders has been unfairly used, as they were not made aware that their money could go to support an unknown organization from out-of-state and over 2 hours away.
Representative organizations that exist in part or in whole because they rely on membership dues owe to their constituents transparency in their actions. Land tract purchase decisions in excess of $180,000 should especially be done in the open, and not announced after-the-fact.
In looking at the Access Fundís web site, there is no recourse for taking objections to AF staffís actions/inactions to the organizationís overseeing board. I am left with taking the case to the climbing public instead and am asking climbers to contact the Access Fund to reconsider their decision in this matter. Further details are below.
1- The Holy Boulders (in SW Jackson County in southern IllinoisÖ some of the finest sandstone bouldering in the USA) was listed for sale about 2 years ago.
2- The Access Fund bought the property soon after, so as to allow for either a non-profit organization or government entity to buy it back with a conservation easement favorable for the climbing public.
3- The Access Fund stated from the outset to the Illinois Climbers Association (ICA) board that they would prefer to see the ICA take title to the Holy Boulders, and that the ICA needs to have 501c3 (IRS not-for-profit status).
4- The ICA has been a non-profit corporation registered in Illinois since 2002. It was grown directly out of the same group of climbers under the organizational name of the Southern Illinois Climbersí Alliance, which started in 1991. In effect, 24 years and countingÖ
5- The ICA submitted 501c3 application to govt. It was initially rejected per a lack of educational component expressed within. It was rewritten and resubmitted. Completion of the process is very near. Having this status will certainly help the ICA raise money at a faster rate.
6- The Access Fund stated to ICA board that they had 3-5 years to make purchase. Less than 2 years has passed since then.
7- The ICA is entered into a joint membership agreement with the Access Fund. If anyone wants to join the ICA, they go to the Access Fundís web site. The Access Fund sends $14 of each $35 joint membership to the ICA. In effect, Access Fundís memberships have increased due to the ICAís efforts in marketing.
8- The ICA began raising funds and immediately sending them to the Access Fund for the Holy Boulders purchase. The board put its trust into the words expressed from the Access Fund to the ICA, again, that they would prefer to see the Illinois Climbers Association take title to the Holy Boulders.
9- Autumn of 2013, the first ICA-organized climbing competition was a success, with 111 competitors in attendance raising over $4,000.
10- A recent look at the Beta Fundís web site showed that:
-It does not appear to have a broad spectrum of board members from different regions, as the ICA does.
-Their address is the same as a Missouri-based private climbing gym.
11- The ICA was unaware of the Beta Fundís competitive intentions at first. The Beta Fund was calling upon the climbing community to help save the Holy Boulders, not to help them purchase the property.
12- At the end of January, 2015, the Access Fund stated to the ICA board that in 2014 (this prior to the second annual ICA Holy Boulders climbing competition), they had already decided to transfer Holy Boulders to the Beta Fund. The Access Fund withheld informing this decision to the ICA until 2015, and has yet to make their decision known to the climbing community.
13- The Access Fund has stated that since with the Holy Boulders property comes a conservation easement, it doesn't matter who owns the property. If this is the case, why the secrets and why not the ICA?
14- The ICAís second competition, autumn 2014, had 215 entrants and raised over $15,000.
15- In the January 2015 conversation where the ICA was informed of the Access Fundís intentions to sell the Holy Boulders to the Beta Fund, the Access Fundís Stewardship Director stated to the ICA that he was unaware that the ICA was interested in obtaining the Holy Boulders. This is somehow despite his having traveled to Illinois on more than one occasion for site visits with ICA board members.
16- The ICA board was recently informed that the Access Fund is now planning to allow the Beta Fund 5 years from present to complete payment for the Holy Boulders. However, the Access Fund also told the ICA that they were too slow in getting their (now very soon-to-be-obtained) 501c3 status, and it is too late. The remaining balance due is approximately $120,000. The Beta Fund is to receive a discount from the original asking price for the Holy Boulders commensurate with the amount of money that the ICA has already disbursed to the Access Fund for the property (there have also been other random donations totaling approximately $45,000 from third parties to the Access Fund to be applied to the property). Knowledge of the Access Fundís applying of ICA-raised funds to the Beta Fundís purchase price was withheld from the ICA until January 2015.
17- The Access Fund contacted me on February 12, 2015 with a voice mail telling me:
- I should remove my initial post from the Southern IL Climbing Facebook group in which I commented on this situation.
- The ICA did not get its 501c3 in time.
In other words, the Access Fund (to date) still wants to withhold from the climbing community at large their intentions to transfer title to the Beta Fund, despite the fact that it is with the climbing community's money that the purchase is enabled. I have been told that the Access Fund and the Beta Fund have entered into a legal agreement to keep their inter-organizational communications confidential from the public.
18- To date, nearly all sweat equity so far invested into the Holy Boulders has been invested by the ICA:
-Trail work days
-Hazard tree management and technical removal
-Fire-break establishment in preparation for a much needed prescribed burn
-The competitions and associated time, energy, and labor.
19- Meanwhile, the Beta Fund has already ordered a stand-down on burn prep. Concerns for ash/soot on boulders, too much opening up of the area and overcrowding have been stated.
Prescribed burns simply do not harm boulders. And, the area has certainly handled well over 200 people at the same time.
Many of the above occurrences did not have to happen. The ICA should have been given the 3-5 years stated by the Access Fund (and the 5 more years given to the Beta Fund?) to raise the funds to take possession of the Holy Boulders, especially considering the organizationís longevity and track record. Regarding track recordsÖ
The Access Fund assisted the original Southern IL Climbers Alliance in 1991 in establishing communications with both the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Shawnee National Forest. Around 1994, the Access Fund granted the SICA $450 to offset gravel expenses for the first development of parking at Jackson Falls. Aside from these two occurrences of assistance, the SICA/ICA has not called upon or required much, if any assistance from the Access Fund, (Holy Boulders aside) other than some give-away-gear for various events, so as to help promote the Access Fund. For the 24 years of existence of the SICA/ICA, relationships with both government agencies have been long-standing and superb. The SICA/ICA has organized numerous crag clean-ups, trail days, competitions, and other good will projects with great success since 1991. The ICA represents its constituency of climbers from all of Illinois and beyond who frequent cliffs throughout the state of Illinois.
The Beta Fund has no track record to speak of.
All funds that the ICA has raised toward the Holy Boulders in the past two years should have been deposited into an ICA-controlled escrow account instead of being sent straight-away to the Access Fund. If the Access Fund deems the ICA unworthy of being the stewards/owners of the Holy Boulders, they should not have taken their very hard earned money. If the Beta Fund wants control of the Holy Boulders so badly that they would compete with the ICA, instead of assisting the ICA in its stated goal to purchase the Holy Boulders, then the Beta Fund should pay for the control they desire. The ICA-raised funds could have gone to other projects. Especially for those of us who invested sweat equity into the Holy Boulders for the past two years, it would have been nice to know to whom the fruits of our labor would be given. It would have been each individual climberís choice to direct personal resources to the Beta Fund or not. What is not right is that choice in this matter was denied.
501c3 status for the ICA is very near completion, and it will place the ICA well in range of the financial goal within the 5 more years that the Access Fund is purportedly allowing the Beta Fund. The Beta Fund could have thrown its newfound weight behind the ICA, and not against it. This would have created more unity within the climbing community. Instead, the Beta Fund created a competitive environment (as the ICA's intentions were well known), which has only created more division in this regionís climbing community. And this was spurred on by the Access Fund's actions. It is my hope that the Access Fundís board might give pause to its own staff and to this situation, and to reconsider the validity, history, and competency of the Illinois Climbers Association. And if not, then maybe some shedding of light on these happenings can help to prevent them from occurring again somewhere else in the USA.
The fact that this information has until now been withheld only leaves one wondering.
As shown in their web site, the Access Fund can be contacted at:
firstname.lastname@example.org Executive Director- Brady Robinson
Their web site does not display contact information for their board.