Rogers Belmont Management Plan

Cave Management Rogers Belmont Preserve

INTRODUCTION

The Mid-Atlantic Karst Conservancy (MAKC) is a non-profit organization incorporated in the state of Pennsylvania in 1997. The MAKC owns or leases various karst preserves in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. The MAKC was established by cavers to preserve and ensure access to caves by acquiring and managing caves and karst areas for conservation, scientific study, and recreational caving.

HISTORY

The first explorers of the cave are unknown. The cave was visited by members of the then newly founded National Speleological Society in 1939, and a report was published in their annual Bulletin. In the mid-1950s through the 1960s the caves were a popular destination for cavers from the Washington DC area, and undoubtedly others also. Because of the expanding residential area of the Belmont subdivision, the entrance of the main cave was closed by blasting in the late 1960s. The known extent of Rogers Belmont cave is approximately 3,200 feet. The cave was mapped by the Potomac Speleological Society Club in 1960, using mapping techniques at that time. By modern standards, the map is in need of updating and likely will end up having more passage than indicated. The Rogers Belmont Swallet cave map was updated in 2013 by the Page County Cave Surveyors and ended up with 380 feet of passage.

CAVE SCIENCE

The rare Madison cave isopod is known to reside in other caves local to Front Royal, VA. One of the objectives going forward will be to inventory and observe the variety of cave life that exists in the cave system today.

BATS AND WHITE NOSE SYNDROME

In 2007, a disease nicknamed white-nose syndrome, caused by a fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, or Pd occurred in Albany, New York, and quickly spread through the northeastern United States. “Pd grows in cold, dark and damp places. It attacks the bare skin of bats while they’re hibernating in a relatively inactive state. As it grows, Pd causes changes in bats that make them become active more than usual and burn up fat they need to survive the winter. Bats with white-nose syndrome may do strange things like fly outside in the daytime in the winter,” according to the website https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org.

The MAKC will continue to study the cave in order to document the return of any bats in the cave. But due to our mission of the study, exploration and conservation of caves and karst resources, the MAKC also has a responsibility to our membership. On November 16, 2019, the MAKC Board of Directors also adopted the National Speleological Society White Nose Syndrome Policy for all of its managed, leased and owned preserves. The Policy was approved by the NSS Board of Governors on April 17, 2010. In part the policy reads:

“The NSS recognizes the serious nature of white-nose syndrome (WNS) and its devastating effect on bat populations in the eastern United States. The Society is committed to advancing scientific knowledge of WNS, helping to determine its cause, and limiting its impact on cave organisms. At the same time, the NSS will promote responsible study, management, and access to cave resources based on demonstrated risks and the latest available data. The NSS has a responsibility to its current members and cavers of tomorrow to do what it can to ensure that any restrictions on cave access are based on demonstrated threats, sound evidence, and recognition that risks are site- and strategy-specific.”

The entire policy is at this weblink: https://caves.org/WNS/NSS%20WNS%20Policy.pdf.

RESEARCH

The MAKC encourages research to explore the preserve’s historical, biological, geological, mineralogical, hydrological, paleontological and archaeological potential. Researchers who desire access to the preserve should submit a brief, written synopsis of their project to the MAKC board of directors for consideration. Researchers are also required to submit a written report to the MAKC within 90 days after the completion of their project. Any research project that involves removal of cave soils, digging, mineralogical or biological sampling must first receive the approval of the DeJak family, and the lessee (MAKC).

PRESERVE MANAGEMENT TEAM

The MAKC board of directors will designate the FRG (Front Royal Grotto) as the preserve management team to oversee the property. The FRG shall report directly to the MAKC board of directors on any issues concerning Rogers Belmont cave property.

NEWS/PUBLICATION POLICY

The MAKC seeks to publicize caves only as befits our mission as stated in our bylaws and constitution: for education of the public about caves and karst resources; for published scientific studies in cave-related publications, and depending on the sensitivity of the material, on the MAKC website (www.karst.org).  Specific cave location information, such as directions to the cave, WILL NOT be released to the general public. The MAKC will seek to minimize publicity of cave locations.

The MAKC can use the cave names in publicizing acquisitions and in its newsletter, Karst Chronicle, and other caving publications, such as the NSS News, grotto newsletters, and the MAKC website. The management plan will be available for publication in these mediums mentioned above.  Any individual caver or other organization which publishes cave location information on MAKC preserves WILL LOSE ACCESS to the preserve and face prosecution for trespass upon return trips to MAKC properties. Caving organizations publishing electronic forms of their newsletters should remove reference to the cave location in the electronic format/archive and may publish trip reports to the cave, where they are not widely available to members of the general public. Specific requests for publicity concerning the cave that are not covered under this policy should be approved by the MAKC board of directors and the DeJak family.

SURFACE MANAGEMENT AND ACCESS

The MAKC has a lease agreement for Rogers Belmont Cave, Rogers Belmont Swallet Cave, and karst features only and has no responsibility for maintaining any other surface portions of the property.

The DeJak family retains all surface rights and management, and may enter into agreements with other agencies, individuals and organizations, as pertains to other aspects of the surface portion of the preserve and its management.

While on the property the following rules and regulations must be followed when visiting Rogers Belmont property.

  • Access to occur only from Shenandoah National Park side of property unless prior permission on an exception basis is obtained from DeJak family.
  • Be discreet when changing in and out of cave clothes.
  • All trash must be removed from the property. Littering is prohibited.
  • Cavers associated with Rogers Belmont Cave property are expected to adhere to state and federal laws.

SUBSURFACE CAVE MANAGEMENT

  • While membership is not required for access to Rogers Belmont Cave property, the MAKC strongly recommends that visitors be members of the MAKC and/or FRG.  Membership in the NSS is also encouraged. Membership applications can be found at karst.org and www.caves.org.
  • All cavers must be properly equipped. Visitors conduct should adhere to NSS conservation guidelines. Visitors conduct should also reflect NSS Safety and Techniques Committee recommendations for safe caving practices.
  • Illegal drugs, drug paraphernalia, alcohol and alcoholic beverage containers are not allowed in or on Rogers Belmont Cave property.
  • Use of Rogers Belmont Cave property for any kind of commercial activity, including “cave-for-pay” caving or other recreational activities is prohibited.
  • No modifications to the Rogers Belmont Cave, including the use of bolts or other permanent climbing aids are allowed. Exceptions may be granted if approved by both FRG and the DeJak family.
  • Human-produced trash and waste must be carried out of Roger Belmont Caves and properly disposed of off the property.
  • The collection, destruction, and/or removal of plants, animals, minerals, or historical items are prohibited.
  • The FRG management team may conduct occasional property/cave inspections and patrols to ensure cave groups adhere to this policy.

INITIAL CAVE MANAGEMENT

The MAKC’s and FRG’s initial management will focus on these areas:

  1. Maintain Rogers Belmont Swallet cave entrance by keeping it clear of debris. Conduct periodic bat counts and inventory other cave life as observed.
  2. Re-open an entrance to the historic Rogers Belmont Cave and then secure the entrance with a gate.
  3. Once gated, all initial trips into cave, under FRG oversight, will be to prepare a new survey map and habitat inventory.
  4. Procedures for cave access for the caving community will be developed after the new survey is competed and will be incorporated into a revised Management Plan at the appropriate time.

MAINTENANCE

Maintenance of the Rogers Belmont cave gate is the responsibility of the management team (FRG).  Major gate repairs, gate vandalism, or a break-in to the cave will be reported to Lessor.  Major instances such as those stated above will be corrected by the management team.

VIRGINIA CAVE PROTECTION ACT

The Virginia Cave Protection Act, sections 10.1-1000 through 10.1-1008 of the Code of Virginia, was first ratified in 1966, with a major revision in 1979. The Act, among other items,  makes it unlawful for any person, without express, prior, written permission of the owner, to break, break off, crack, carve upon, write, burn, or otherwise mark upon, remove, or in any manner destroy, disturb, deface, mar, or harm the surfaces of any cave or any natural material which may be found therein, whether attached or broken, including speleothems, speleogens, and sedimentary deposits and also makes it unlawful to break, force, tamper with, or otherwise disturb a lock, gate, door, or other obstruction designed to control or prevent access to any cave, even though entrance thereto may not be gained.

The Act also provides protection to the landowner where neither the owner of a cave nor his authorized agents acting within the scope of their authority are liable for injuries sustained by any person using the cave for recreational or scientific purposes if no charge has been made for the use of the cave, notwithstanding that an inquiry as to the experience or expertise of the individual seeking consent may have been made.

For the complete text of VA Cave Law, refer to Addendum 1.

NON-DISCRIMINATION POLICY

The MAKC promotes a policy of non-discrimination for everyone. That policy, adopted by the MAKC Board on February 16, 2019, is as follows:

The MAKC does not and shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status, in any of its activities or operations. These activities include, but are not limited to, granting membership, selection of project volunteers and serving on internal committees. We are committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all board of directors, officers, agents, members, volunteers, and contributors.

ANTI-HARASSMENT POLICY

The MAKC follows the National Speleological Society’s anti-harassment policy. That policy is as follows:

The National Speleological Society and the MAKC are dedicated to providing a safe and harassment-free (experience) environment for our members and attendees at our events, on social media and within our organization. We will not tolerate harassment in any form. Any attendee that violates this policy will be (told) asked to leave the event and may be subject to further disciplinary action at the discretion of the MAKC Board.

Harassment includes but is not limited to inappropriate comments, inappropriate sexual behavior that warrants intervention, unwanted advances and touching, invasion of personal space in a sexual manner, deliberate intimidation, and unwelcomed sexual advances. In addition, harassment includes unwanted verbal, physical, cyber, or social aggressive behavior. The action of our members and guests will be closely monitored and if an incident of harassment is reported the event staff, volunteers, or MAKC representatives will (may) take corrective action against any offenders at the time of the incident, ranging from verbal warnings to expulsion from the area and/or event and a referral of the offender to the MAKC Board for consideration of expulsion from the MAKC.

If you are being harassed or witness another person being harassed, please contact a security staff member immediately. We will be happy to assist you and provide protection for our members and attendees. We value all of our members and attendees that come to caving events and want to ensure that your safety and well-being is a top priority.

LIABILITY DISCLAIMER

The MAKC, its board of directors, the FRG, the DeJak family, the NSS or its local chapters (grottos) or any individual members thereof will not be liable for any damages, accidents, injuries, or death on the surface or subsurface of the property. All the above named organizations will also not be liable for any damage or loss of personal property while visiting Rogers Belmont Cave.

FUTURE UPDATES

This management plan was approved by the MAKC board of directors and the FRG on November 20, 2021. The MAKC board of directors and FRG reserve the right to update, adjust, alter or amend this plan. Changes in the management plan must be sanctioned by the FRG, MAKC, and the DeJak family and thereafter will be publicized in the MAKC newsletter and/or website at the discretion of the MAKC board of directors.