the place



Less than 20 miles south­east of Port­land hides a trea­sure trove of rock amongst sway­ing madrone trees: the 1,000-foot-long, 80-foot-tall Madrone Wall, with 100-plus sport, trad, and mixed lines from 5.7 to 5.12 on 660,000-year-old ig­neous basalt. The Clacka­mas River bub­bles be­low, while farm­land and for­est stretch to the hori­zon. It’s a per­fect spot for a day trip or af­ter-work crag­ging. How­ever, the Madrone Wall was also closed for the past 20 years un­der the threat of de­vel­op­ment, in­clud­ing quar­ry­ing, a se­ri­ous blow to a city full of avid climbers who have min­i­mal high-qual­ity rock nearby. Says Keith Dal­len­bach, a Port­land na­tive who re­turned to the area in 1997, “Climb­ing at Madrone Wall for the first time on a week­day af­ter work [in 1997] con­firmed why I moved back home.”

In 1937, Clacka­mas County pur­chased the 44 acres of farm­land sur­round­ing the Madrone Wall for $2,000 from Anna S. Robert­son and opened ac­cess to the pub­lic. Climb­ing started in the 1970s, with mixed and crack routes. The late 1980s and early ‘ 90s saw the most clas­sic lines es­tab­lished, with Wayne Wal­lace and Robert McGown’s stout 5.11d sport route Where the Wild Things Roam and Wal­lace’s Shin­ing Wall— both done in 1989—and Tim Ol­son and McGown’s 1990 Red Sun Ris­ing, a 5.10b trad line. Lo­cal climbers in­for­mally main­tained the area, and all was go­ing well un­til au­tumn 1997 when the county closed the wall. The county wished to pursue a per­mit for a hard-rock quarry, which would in­volve blow­ing up the cliff to make crushed ag­gre­gate.

Shortly there­after, Dal­len­bach and other lo­cals formed the Madrone Wall Preser­va­tion Com­mit­tee (MWPC). Over the next 20 years, Dal­len­bach, cur­rent MWPC Pres­i­dent Kel­lie Rice, and past MWPC Pres­i­dent Ian Cald­well fought the county’s de­ci­sion. The team handed out fly­ers around Port­land and nearby Da­m­as­cus to alert cit­i­zens of the quarry plans, fundraised for re­search stud­ies, and filed a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act for pub­lic doc­u­ments about the county com­mis­sion­ers’ plans. Fur­ther, when a com­mis­sioner ap­praised the prop­erty at $10 mil­lion, the MWPC raised funds to bring in an out­side ap­praiser, who val­ued the prop­erty at a few hun­dred thou­sand. Next, the MWPC part­nered with Clacka­mas County to fund a joint study of the quarry’s eco­nomic value. Bob Whe­lan, an eco­nomic ge­ol­o­gist from the con­sult­ing firm ECONorth­west, dis­cov­ered that a hard-rock quarry was not economically fea­si­ble due to the site’s small size (<44 acres), of which only half was suit­able for quar­ry­ing. The county ac­cepted this study and dropped their plans, but be­gan to con­sider sell­ing the prop­erty ei­ther for a pri­vate quarry, hous­ing, or log­ging—de­spite the MWPC’s on­go­ing ob­jec­tions. Fi­nally, in 2006–‘07, the county ac­qui­esced and the site was eval­u­ated as a park.

The county cre­ated a check­list of nearly three dozen pre­req­ui­sites for re­open­ing the Madrone Wall, in­clud­ing in­stal­la­tion of park­ing, ac­cess roads, and pub­lic re­strooms. Find­ing the fund­ing for these im­prove­ments, which cost over $100,000, was a chal­lenge. The Maza­mas, Ac­cess Fund, Amer­i­can Alpine Club, REI, and Patag­o­nia added to Clacka­mas County Parks’ funds, with the Ac­cess Fund and Maza­mas help­ing with call-to-ac­tion emails that brought in over 500 pro-climb­ing, pro-pub­lic-park com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Ad­di­tion­ally, two pri­vate donors and Clacka­mas County Tourism and Cul­tural Af­fairs es­tab­lished large cap­i­tal-match­ing grants. Other lo­cal busi­nesses and or­ga­ni­za­tions as well as Ore­gon politi­cians like U.S. sen­a­tors Ron Wy­den and Jeff Merkley, and U.S. Con­gress­man Earl Blu­me­nauer, pro­vided sup­port.

The MWPC then part­nered with the Ore­gon Army Na­tional Guard for a vi­tal piece of the de­vel­op­ment. Each sum­mer as a train­ing ex­er­cise, the guard as­sists with pro bono pub­lic projects for two weeks. In Au­gust 2016, with cap­i­tal fund­ing es­tab­lished, the Guard cre­ated the quar­ter-mile ag­gre­gate ac­cess road and park­ing for 20 ve­hi­cles. “Work­ing with the Ore­gon Army Na­tional Guard was one of the most en­joy­able as­pects in two de-

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