Why the need to debase park-users in order to further rock climbing?

To the Editor:

Thank you for your extensive coverage of the public-comment hearing of the master plan for Thacher and Thompsons Lake state parks.  As someone very close to the park, I was pleased to see many people speak their minds about the plan and the parks' future.

The Friends of Thacher and Thompsons Lake State Parks look forward to working with the variety of groups that wish to use the park including hikers, mountain bikers, rock climbers, and others.  The Friends have been working with park staff coordinating park events and volunteer opportunities since the mid-1990s and we can always use "more hands on deck." 

I take issue with several statements made by Mike Whelan, the vice president of the Thacher Climbing Coalition [“Rock-climbing on the horizon at Thacher Park,” Aug. 8, 2013, online at www.AltamontEnterprise.com].  In the article, Mr. Whelan states, "Thacher used to be anti-anything."  This couldn't be more wrong.

The list of recreational activities at the two parks includes camping, boating, fishing, swimming, ice fishing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, road cycling, mountain biking, hunting, hiking, and geocache-ing.  This is in addition to races coordinated by local runners’ groups and all the weddings and receptions, graduation parties, family reunions, and the weekend picnics and barbecues that have been the norm for decades.

He then goes on to disparage snowmobilers in an effort to boost rock climbing.  Unfortunately, this is not the first time the Thacher Climbing Coalition has done this. Its website refers to many park-users as being "not outdoor savvy" and states "many become intoxicated."  It goes on to state that "a few families of victims dig for the gold out of our taxpayer pockets... they sue the park when their intoxicated, drugged out, irresponsible, or mentally ill family members fall off the cliff and die" (http://www.usaro.net/ThacherClimbingCoalition/plan.htm).

Why the need to debase park-users in order to further rock climbing?  In 2010, park users rallied against the governor's decision to close the parks.  These people are wonderful and I'm pleased to call them allies in Thacher's future.

Later in the article, Mr. Whelan likens rock climbers to mosquitoes.   Really?  Why compare your group to a species of blood-sucking parasites?

The Friends look forward to sitting down with the Thacher Climbing Coalition as participants in the park's future but I strongly suggest that they find a better spokesperson.  Perhaps a member who resides in the Capital Region year-round and knows the park much better than Mr. Whelan.

John Kilroy, president
Friends of Thacher and Thompsons Lake State Parks


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