Big South Fork Continues GMP Implementation
Contact: Steven Seven, 423.569.9778
In the three years since Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area (NRRA) completed its first General Management Plan, significant progress has and continues to be made in the implementation of the sweeping changes outlined in that history-making document.
In 2007, Big South Fork NRRA initiated the implementation of the designated trail system as it was defined in the General Management Plan. In doing so, park staff and volunteers alike began installing a new system of trail signing and blazing which clearly defines the types of trail use allowed on any of the designated trails within the park.
Last year, the park also worked in partnership with the Fentress County Road Department to develop two new equestrian trailheads adjacent to Big South Fork NRRA. Both the Troxel/Wood Trailhead located on the Obey Blevins Road and the improved road leading into the new Mt. Helen Trailhead are excellent examples of county and park cooperative efforts.
Two other areas of Big South Fork which saw significant improvements last year were Burnt Mill Bridge and Zenith. At Burnt Mill Bridge, paddlers seeking to challenge the park’s white water and families looking for a beautiful picnic site will find the site now has a bigger parking lot, new picnic tables and new restroom facilities available for their use.
Visitors to Zenith will find access to the Zenith beach area has been greatly enhanced with an improved crossing at Camp Branch, and the road from Camp Branch to the beach has been graveled. This year, park staff will continue to improve facilities at Zenith with the development of picnic sites, improved parking and restroom facilities.
Work on the park’s roads and trails this year will continue to follow plans outlined in the General Management Plan and will include the establishment of several multiple use trails. As defined in the General Management Plan, a multiple use trail is designed to allow all types of trail uses, including motorized vehicles. In addition, licensed hunters may use ATVs on these trails, but only while actively engaged in the legal hunting of either deer or wild boar.
Under this plan a portion of Fork Ridge Road will be widened and the Middle Creek Equestrian Trailhead expanded to accommodate a greater number of horse trailers. Beyond the Middle Creek Equestrian Trailhead, Fork Ridge Road will be blazed and managed as a multiple use trail. As a multiple use trail, the Fork Ridge Trail will continue to provide vehicle access to the Charit Creek and Power Line trailheads; however the road width will be narrowed, the vehicle speed limit will be reduced to 15 mph, and horses will be allowed on the trail.
Similar work will also be done on Terry Cemetery Road. The Gobblers Knob Equestrian Trailhead will be enlarged and the road from the trailhead out to its end at Terry Cemetery will be blazed and managed as a multiple use trail.
In addition to Fork Ridge and Terry Cemetery Roads, several other trails including the Duncan Hollow Bypass, portions of Jacks Ridge Loop, and the Gar Blevins Road are to be blazed and managed as multiple use trails this year.
In the Darrow Ridge area of Big South Fork work continues toward the development of the proposed experimental ATV trail and other hiking and horse trails. The Fentress County Road Department is working to improve a portion of Darrow Ridge Road leading into the park. Once the access is improved, researchers and volunteers will work to complete the natural and cultural resource surveys necessary to finalize the environmental clearance required to build the new trail. Following completion of the environmental compliance, park officials can then begin work on securing the funds needed to actually construct the ATV trail and other hiking and horse trails.
Other efforts this year will focus on redirecting trail usage to match the use type identified in the General Management Plan through the continued installation of the park’s approved trail blazing system. For example, the section of trail from Terry Cemetery to Maude’s Crack, formerly used by horseback riders, is now a hiking trail and is blazed with the approved hiking symbol, and the section of Fork Ridge Road beyond the Charit Creek Trailhead which had been used by vehicles will now be blazed and managed as a horse trail.
In some cases barricades may be required to prevent the use of a trail in a non-authorized manner. On the Bronco Overlook Trail, the horse trail uses an old road which is continuing to be driven by vehicles. In order to keep vehicles off the horse trail, a post will be installed in the center of the road which will keep vehicles from entering the road. Horses will continue to be allowed. In other areas, a gate may be used which will inhibit illegal trail usage, but will allow for emergency access by park staff.
It is important to remember the changes being implemented this year and for several years to come are all a part of the approved General Management Plan. These changes will result in a greater degree of protection for the park’s natural and cultural resources as well as improvement of recreational opportunities throughout Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.