Members of the Ragged Mountain Foundation can receive climbing permits in Meriden

MERIDEN — Active members of the Ragged Mountain Foundation can now obtain permits from the Department of Parks and Recreation for rock climbing.

Climbing in Meriden is only permitted with written permission from the Parks Department, which does not issue permits regularly. The city has an ordinance stating that “all climbing is prohibited in any park area except with the written consent of the Director of Parks and Recreation,” according to the City of Meriden.

Foundation board member Kevin Johnson contacted Meriden Parks Director Chris Bourdon to inquire about rock climbing in Meriden.

“It seemed like a fitting place to start,” said Matthew Conroy, chairman/president of the Ragged Mountain Foundation. “Kevin and I then met Chris who was incredibly helpful. He explained that he would have to explore the matter but that as long as we applied for the permit in the name of a specific “club” to use his word, he thought he would be able to get one.

The process took about three months. The department will begin administering 12-month permits to foundation members who can prove their membership status.

“(They) need to be qualified and recognized by experts,” Bourdon said of who is eligible for a permit.

The Ragged Mountain Foundationa nonprofit conservation group, took ownership of 56 acres on Ragged Mountain that was previously owned by the city in 1999. The foundation permits rock climbing on its property and advocates for safe and responsible rock climbing statewide.

The permit works for any cliff on the parks property. Cathole Mountain is not permitted as it is not on park property.

“The permit is limited to city land and does not apply to any private property,” Conroy said. “The permit also does not apply to Castle Craig. It was actually a non-climber who fell in this area that caused the initial ban to be enacted.

Conroy hopes the new permit system in Meriden will help make rock climbing a recognized recreational activity in other Connecticut cities.

“I hope that between the new permit system in Meriden, the economic impact of climbing and the prominence that climbing has in the air thanks to films like ‘Dawn Wall’ and ‘Free Solo’, we can get cities to specifically approve rock climbing as an approved recreational activity,” Conroy said.

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Virginia F. Goins