3/28/14 - In 2003, climbers Rick and Liz Weber purchased the land that would become the Muir Valley climbing area in Kentucky's Red River Gorge. Ten years later, the Webers, now in their 70s, are donating it to the climbing community.
When the Webers purchased Muir Valley, they imagined it would only be visited by about 100 climbers a year. Their expectations were exceeded quickly when 50 routes were established the first summer.
"Hundreds soon turned into thousands," said Rick.
Before long, thousands turned into tens of thousands. 50 routes has become 400 spread across 30 walls. The Webers found themselves to be the private owners of one of the most popular climbing areas in the Red River Gorge. Today, about 40,000 climbers a year visit Muir Valley. Every visitor uses the area for free, but it's been no small expense to the Webers, who estimate they've spent $1,000,000 on Muir Valley over the years.
In order to pay the operating costs of Muir Valley and legal fees associated with a property transfer, the Webers and the Friends of Muir Valley (FOMV) volunteer organization need to raise $200,000 by March 2015. You can contribute to their fundraising goals and monitor progress at the Friends of Muir Valley donations page.
We spoke with Rick about the transfer.
What made you decide that now is the right time to donate Muir Valley to the community?It wasn't a sudden decision. It has been our vision for nearly 10 years (almost from the time we founded Muir Valley) to ultimately make a gift of Muir Valley to the climbing community. We have been steadily working toward that plan by mentoring FOMV volunteers and grooming the organization for eventual Muir Valley ownership and responsibility.
Are you and Liz staying in the area? Any plans for your extra free time?Yes, we plan to continue to be involved with Muir Valley. The difference will be that instead of Muir Valley owners, we will be just two additional enthusiastic FOMV volunteers and donors. We will still have our home at Muir and expect to spend time lending a hand when we can.
What's the plan for management and maintenance of the area after the transfer?We have prepared a comprehensive 30-page operations manual, which FOMV has studied and accepted as part of the transition plan. (Note: The operations manual is not public. The Webers state on the Muir Valley website: "It is available to those to whom it is relevant. It is specific to Muir Valley and is not applicable to other climbing areas that have far different standards.")
What happens to Muir Valley if the $200,000 isn’t raised?First off, Liz and I are very confident this energetic group of individuals will raise these funds. However, If FOMV doesn't reach the $200,000 goal, Liz and I will retain ownership of Muir Valley. Any part of that goal donated to FOMV will continue to be used by FOMV for fulfilling their mission. Any donor who wants to make a conditional donation can specify that the donation is being made on the conditions that FOMV is successful in meeting the goal and the property given to FOMV. If those terms are not met the conditional donation will be returned at the request of the donor.
Otherwise, Liz and I will continue to be in charge of Muir Valley. We will keep it open to the public and welcome climbers. Unfortunately, if the goal is not reached, we will conclude that Muir Valley is not as important to the climbing community as we thought. We will take that into consideration as we decide how much more of our resources we want to put into Muir Valley and what its ultimate future will be.
Liz and I are firmly convinced that FOMV will meet their goals that we will be making a gift of Muir by March of 2015.
For a more in-depth FAQ about Muir Valley and the Webers, visit muirvalley.com/answers