Parking Lots and Mountain Road Closing Early
On April 15, 16, and 17, 2014, the Visitor Center parking lot is closing at 5:30 and the mountain road is closing at 4 pm. Visitors are encouraged to use the overflow parking lot and the mountain trail to access the top of the mountain.
National Battlefield Park
Mountain Road Alternatives
Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park was established by Congress in 1935 to preserve and commemorate the site of the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain during the Atlanta campaign of the Civil War. The mountain road within Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park was constructed to provide vehicular access to the top of Kennesaw Mountain so park visitors can understand its key importance. The mountaintop provides a panoramic view of the region’s important geographic features, revealing the strategy of Confederate and Union troop movements and battle lines during the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. Access to the top of the mountain is considered critical to interpreting the park’s significance.
In recent years the steep, narrow, winding road has received increasing use by pedestrians and bicyclists. The road was not designed for multi-modal use, presenting inherent dangers when pedestrians and bicycles share the same road surface with motor vehicles. The steep grade, lack of road shoulders, and numerous blind curves compound the safety issues. An engineering study prepared in 2003 by the Federal Highway Administration identified major safety concerns with the mixed usage of the Kennesaw Mountain Road. This was echoed in a 2004 analysis by Federal transportation planners who found it imperative that safe alternatives for pedestrians and bicycles be developed. Many mountain road users recognize these dangers, and have shared their concerns with the park.
NPS Management Policy
The National Park Service strives to protect human life and provide for injury-free visits, with the saving of human life taking precedence over all other management actions. When threats to the safety and health of visitors are identified, the NPS will reduce or remove known hazards and apply other appropriate measures such as closures, guarding, signing, or other forms of education. The NPS preferred actions will be those that have the least impact on park resources and values and are consistent with the congressionally designated purpose of the park.
The NPS allows visitor activities that are appropriate to the purpose for which the park was established if they can be sustained without causing unacceptable impacts to park resources or values, and do not create an unsafe environment for other visitors or employees. Management controls must be imposed on all park uses to ensure that park resources and values are preserved and protected for future generations, to protect public health and safety, carry out scientific research, or minimize visitor use conflicts. These management actions can include: 1) closing a specific area, 2) prohibiting a particular use, or 3) otherwise placing limitations on the use.
The following alternatives for managing the mountain road within Kennesaw Mountain NBP represent ideas presented by professional highway engineers and transportation planners, park staff, park partners and stakeholders, and park visitors. The park seeks comments on these alternatives from all of these sources, and will consider and evaluate these comments within the framework of the park’s legislated purpose and NPS management policies. Any management solution must continue to allow vehicular access to the top of KennesawMountain for interpretive purposes, and must provide for visitor safety.
Note: KennesawMountain has been identified as being significant for world bird conservation and has been officially designated as a globally important bird area. The park’s bird population is the subject of continuing scientific research. Organized bird walks at KennesawMountainNationalBattlefieldPark are part of the park’s scheduled interpretive programs. These interpretive walks, conducted by NPS volunteers during the spring and fall months, typically use the mountain road for this activity. The mountain road will be closed to vehicles, including bicycles, during these scheduled programs. The mountain road will also be closed to vehicles during bird research activities that are coordinated with and approved by the NPS.
Alternative #1 – Improve Foot Trail for Accessibility
The foot trail from near the Visitor Center to the top of Kennesaw Mountain was developed to provide pedestrian access to the mountaintop. The existing trail is steep and rocky, with grades exceeding 22%, and is not handicap or stroller accessible. Under this alternative, sections of the foot trail will be rerouted and redesigned as needed to achieve a grade of less than 10%, widened to 6-8 ft. with a compacted or hardened surface that meets accessibility standards.
Pedestrians – The mountain road will be closed to pedestrian use and all foot traffic will be redirected to the foot trail.
Vehicles – The road will be open to private vehicles, including bicycles, Monday through Friday except designated holidays. A shuttle bus will operate on weekends and holidays, when the road will be closed to private vehicles and bicycles.
Alternative #2 – Expand Shuttle Service
Under this alternative, the shuttle bus service will operate 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily year round. The shuttle will operate every 30 minutes Monday through Friday. Frequency may increase to every 20 minutes on weekends and holidays as needed to meet demand. The park has requested funding for a technical study to evaluate the best vehicle for this service in terms of size, technology, and method of acquisition, and will pursue those recommendations as appropriate and dependent upon available funds. The current shuttle fee is $2/adults and $1/children per day. The park is considering implementing an entrance fee. When that occurs the shuttle fee would be incorporated into the entrance fee and there would not be a separate fee to ride the shuttle bus.
Pedestrians – The road would be restriped and flexiposts installed to designate the outside 4 feet of road pavement to serve as a sidewalk. Pedestrian traffic would be required to stay within this designated walkway at all times, including weekends and holidays.
Vehicles – The road would be closed to private motor vehicles and a motorized gate installed at the road entrance to preclude illegal access. All visitors desiring to be transported to the top of the mountain by vehicle would be required to use the shuttle bus. The remaining 16 ft. of road surface would be shared by park and emergency vehicles as necessary, requiring careful communication and coordination with the shuttle bus driver to avoid head-on collisions. The road would be open to bicycles from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. daily (weekdays and weekends) during daylight savings time. Bicycles would share the remaining 16 ft. of road surface with park and emergency vehicles.
Alternative #3 – Schedule User Groups
Under this alternative, the following schedule of access and closures will be in effect:
Daily, 7:30-10:00 a.m. – Mountain road closed to private vehicles including bicycles; open to pedestrians. Due to use of the road during this time by park and emergency vehicles, pedestrians will be required to abide by laws governing pedestrian use of roadways, i.e. walk on the road shoulder where it exists; walk to the far outside of the pavement where no road shoulder exists.
Monday – Friday, after 10:00 a.m. – Mountain road closed to pedestrians. Road open to private vehicles including bicycles 10:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. EST (7:30 p.m. EDT).
Weekends & Holidays, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. EST (8:00 p.m. EDT) – Mountain road closed to private vehicles including bicycles, open to pedestrians. Shuttle bus in operation 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. EST (6:00 p.m. EDT). Due to use of the road during this time by the shuttle bus and park and emergency vehicles, pedestrians will be required to abide by laws governing pedestrian use of roadways, i.e. walk on the road shoulder where it exists; walk to the far outside of the pavement where no road shoulder exists.
Alternative #4 – Combine Elements of Alternatives #1-3
Under this alternative, the foot trail would be improved for accessibility. The road would be open to pedestrian use from 7:30-10:00 a.m. Due to the use of the road during this period by park and emergency vehicles, pedestrians will be required to abide by laws governing pedestrian use of roadways, i.e. walk on the road shoulder where it exists, and walk to the far outside of the pavement where no road shoulder exists. After 10:00 a.m. the road will be closed to pedestrians and all foot traffic redirected to the foot trail. The shuttle bus service would be expanded to operate 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily year round. The road would be closed to private vehicles, but would be open to bicycles daily from 10:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. EST (7:30 p.m. EDT).
Alternatives Considered but Dismissed:
1. Mark a pedestrian lane on the existing road surface.
The existing road is already a substandard width, only 20 feet wide (10 feet per drive lane). A minimum sidewalk width is 4 feet. This would leave only 16 feet of road width for a 2-lane motor vehicle road (8 feet per drive lane), which does not meet minimum safety standards.
2. Construct a sidewalk adjoining the road.
Approximately 80% of the 1.5 mile mountain road has less than 1 foot of shoulder, and the mountainside drops off steeply. Constructing an adjoining sidewalk would require building a substantial retaining wall over a mile long, anchoring it into the mountain, and adding enormous volumes of fill material. NPS policy states:
“Before a decision is made to design, construct, expand, or upgrade access within a park, non-construction alternatives must be fully explored. If non-construction alternatives will not achieve satisfactory results, then a development solution may be pursued if the project:
· Is appropriate and necessary to meet park management needs;
· Is designed with extreme care and sensitivity to the landscape;
· Will not cause unacceptable adverse impacts to natural and cultural resources.”
3. Reduce speed limit and allow continued mixed use.
The road has been evaluated by traffic engineers and the existing 25 mph speed limit has been determined appropriate for the road conditions, except at specified curves. Speed limit advisory signs are appropriate for those locations. Most drivers go the speed at which they feel comfortable given the existing road conditions such as line of sight, encroaching vegetation, etc. Lowering the posted speed limit is not likely to affect the speed of a vast majority of drivers. It would be difficult to enforce and could encourage disregard for other posted regulations.
4. Install traffic calming devices and allow continued mixed use.
Due to the 12% grade on the mountain road, traffic calming devices such as speed bumps would have a “ramping” effect that could make vehicles go airborne and lose control. On this road with its 12% grade these devices would create more safety problems than they would solve.
5. Increase enforcement efforts and allow continued mixed use.
The park must patrol 11 miles of road, 20 miles of trail, and 22 miles of boundary with minimal staff. The park’s existing staffing level does not allow the implementation of this alternative to the degree necessary to achieve even a moderate level of success.
6. Pave the road shoulder and allow continued mixed use.
The mountain road has less than 1 foot of road shoulder along 80% of its 1.5 mile length. There is insufficient road shoulder to consider this alternative.
Public Comment Period
The park will receive written comments addressing the alternatives from March 27 through April 25, 2007. These comments can be dropped off at the park visitor center or mailed to the park at:
Attn: Mountain Road Comments
Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park
900 Kennesaw Mountain Drive
Kennesaw, GA 30152
Comments may also be emailed to the park at:
Email address: KEMO_superintendent@nps.gov
Subject line: Mountain Road Comments
Visitors should include personal contact information with their comments (email address is preferable). Following the public comment period the park will evaluate and respond to all comments received. Similar comments will be grouped together for a single response. The park intends to complete all comment responses by August 31, 2007.
University of Georgia Visitor Study
The University of Georgia, Warnell School of Forestry, is conducting a visitor study to obtain additional social science data on the mountain road safety concerns. This study began in January 2007 and will continue through August 2007 in order to compile a more complete data set that includes those who visit the park seasonally or are from outside the area and unable to attend the public meetings. When the park receives the compiled results and conclusions from UGA, this data will be evaluated along with all public comments received.
Selection of Preferred Alternative
If the public comments and UGA visitor study indicate that the draft alternatives have adequately addressed the practical range of alternatives, we will identify a preferred alternative for implementation. If it becomes apparent that additional alternatives need to be considered or that the draft alternatives need further refinement, a revised set of alternatives will be developed and the public comment process repeated. Once a preferred alternative is selected, if it involves substantial cost or time to implement, short-range options will be identified that can provide a measure of improved safety until the final solution is implemented.
During the intervening months prior to selection of a preferred alternative, the park will continue to allow mixed use of the mountain road by private vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians. The park will implement the following measures to help improve safety:
· Post additional signs instructing pedestrians to stay left going uphill and stay right going downhill.
· Post speed limit advisory signs at specified curves.
· Place radar activated speed display device when available from County.
· Increase patrol and enforcement as staffing permits, focused during heavier use times, to educate mountain road users of the laws: i.e. bicyclists and motorists must comply with the posted speed limit; pedestrians are required to walk on the road shoulder where it exists and to the far edge of the pavement where there is no road shoulder.
· Pedestrians unable to comply with the law (ex. groups not intending to walk single file, those with pets and strollers) will be redirected to the foot trail or multi-use trail.
Did You Know?
That National Park Law Enforcement Officers at Kennesaw Mountain can enforce both state and federal regulations. If caught violating a traffic offense on any road within or traveling through the park, a fine bears the same weight as if a county officer made the stop.