Park Service Begins Implementation of GMP

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Date: July 18, 2006
Contact: Steven Seven, 423-569-9778

In 2005 the General Management Plan for Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area was finalized and approved. The General Management Plan, will now serve as a guiding document for park management and operations for the next 15 to 20 years. 


As it was being developed, The General Management Plan was written in a manner that would assure Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is managed in compliance with the many Federal Regulations and Executive Orders under which the park must operate. Included in these regulations are;


  • The parks Enabling Legislation, Section 108 of the Water Resources Act of 1974, which states, “No motorized transportation shall be allowed in the gorge area except on designated access routes, existing routes for administration of the National Area, existing routes for access to cemeteries,…”
  • Executive Order 11644signed Feb. 8, 1972 which deals with the use of off-road vehicles on the public lands and requires trails be located to:
    • minimize damage to soil, watershed, vegetation, or other resources on public lands.
    • minimize harassment of wildlife or significant disruption of wildlife habitats.
    • minimize conflicts between off-road users and other existing or proposed recreational uses of the same or neighboring public lands.
    • Trails shall be located in areas of the National park system only if the agency head determines that off-road vehicle use in such locations will not adversely affect their natural, aesthetic, or scenic values.
  • Executive Order 11989 signed May 24, 1977 which added Section (9) to Executive Order 11644 providing for “Special Protection of the Public Lands.” Under this section the agency head shall whenever it is determined that the use of off-road vehicles will cause or is causing considerable adverse effects on the soil, vegetation, wildlife, wildlife habitat or cultural or historic resources of particular areas or trails of the public lands to immediately close such areas or trails to the type of off-road vehicle causing such effects.

The National Park Service worked for over eight years to develop the General Management Plan and during that period through its policy of civic engagement provided extensive opportunities for public comment. Public review of the General Management Plan occurred from February 12, 2003 through May 15, 2003, a period of 92 days. In addition, a series of four open houses were held in March of 2003. Those meetings were held in Allardt, Huntsville and Wartburg, Tennessee and Whitley city, Kentucky. Based on the public comments received through this process, significant revisions in the draft General Management Plan were made by the park prior to final approval.  


This year, based on the approved General Management Plan, the park began implementing the designated trail system within Big South Fork NRRA. Trails are now closed to a type of use unless marked open for that particular use. Under this new designated trail system, the only trails open to ATV use in Big South Fork NRRA are those designated as multiple-use trails which may be used by licensed hunters while they are actively engaged in the legal hunting of either deer or wild boar. A comprehensive list of those multiple-use trails is available at either visitor center.


Implementation of this new designated trail system has already begun on a number of different fronts. Park staff and volunteers have begun installing new trailhead and trail markings which consist of both graphic symbols and color coded blazes to indicate the types of use authorized for that particular trail. The park has also begun a long term educational campaign to inform park users about the new designated trail system and the types of uses authorized by the system. As a part of this campaign articles have been written for the park’s newspaper and new programs and displays developed for visitors to view. In the field, park rangers and other park staff have begun contacting park visitors and personally providing them with information concerning the new authorized trail system and the types of trail uses allowed and prohibited under the new trail system. Rangers, after the initial informational contact with park visitors, will begin using their discretionary enforcement authority while dealing with illegal types of trail usage throughout most of the Big South Fork NRRA. As for public roads in the park, they have always been closed to ATV use and will remain closed to them as per Tennessee State Law.


On the O&W, due to the high degree of historical use by off-highway vehicles, including ATV’s the initial education campaign is being extended to January 27, 2007. After the park’s 6 month educational program about ATV and other recreational uses and about approved trail locations for these uses, rangers will begin using their discretionary enforcement authority while dealing with illegal trail usage on the O&W Railway.


The General Management Plan does allow for the future development of an ATV trail(s) in the Darrow Ridge area of the park. This trail will be located outside the defined “gorge area” of the park and will be laid out and developed with input from a variety of interest groups including local and regional ATV organizations.  


When completed the National Park Service will monitor these ATV trail(s) in compliance with Executive Order 11989 to assess any impacts that might result from this activity upon the natural, cultural and recreational resources of Big South Fork NRRA. The results of this monitoring will then allow park management to make a decision based on well defined and defendable evidence as to whether an ATV trail system is possible for the long term within Big South Fork NRRA.


Prior to the development of this trail, Title 36 CFR Section 4.10 (b) requires Big South Fork NRRA to draft a special regulation authorizing the use of ATV's on trails within the park. Park staff are currently working with our Washington Office to complete drafting this special regulation.


Until such time as this trail is developed ATV riders must find riding alternatives outside the boundaries of Big South Fork NRRA. Within the region some areas available are Brimstone Recreation (423-663-4868), Coal Creek OHV (, Royal Blue Wildlife Management Area (800-332-0900) and Ride Royal Blue ATV Guest Resort (423-784-9445).

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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