Justifications for Compendium Actions
1.5 Visiting Hours, Public Use Limits and Closures
(a)(1) Park Hours - Nighttime water fluctuations due to dam releases and cold water temperatures make nighttime navigation on the river difficult and hazardous. The inability to distinguish passages through rocky shoals and judge the rise of the river in the dark increases the chance of injury and death. Unrestricted access at night would allow travel by people unfamiliar with and/or without a sufficient level of proficiency access to negotiate the Chattahoochee River.
The park is a daytime use area with little legitimate nighttime use and no camping allowed. Cliffs and steep terrain are difficult to distinguish at night and possess a serious hazard of injury and death.
The close proximity of the park to the metropolitan Atlanta area makes it susceptible to activity such as vandalism, theft, unauthorized fires, abuse of alcohol and drugs, underage incidents and confrontations that occur because of these activities. Signing, education, and enforcement by park rangers and other agencies have not been effective in preventing illegal activities. Automatic gates permit park lands to be closed and opened to vehicles without the need for park rangers to be present.
(a)(1) Motorized Vessels - Island Ford and Sibley Ponds are small ponds and are used for environmental education and children’s fishing programs. The size of the ponds and shallow areas in each make them more conducive to rowing than the use of motors. Motors would leave fuel and oil residue in the small ponds polluting the waters. These tranquil locations offer an opportunity to teach children in a natural setting free of the noise and disturbance that a motorized vessel would bring.
(a)(1) Golfing Equipment - Although the park is a national recreation area, not all recreational uses are compatible. The use of golf equipment, specifically using open areas in the park for driving golf balls produces several problems. Lost golf balls produce litter in the natural environment. Driven balls fly a great distance, so one person may, by virtue of the potential injury from being struck, exclude other visitors from the use of an entire open field. The divots created in the grass from swinging clubs would, in sufficient quantity, cause bare areas and erosion problems.
(a)(1) Glass Containers - Glass containers broken while picnicking or boating or when left behind as trash create a significant safety hazard. Glass in the river is difficult to see even in clear water, decomposes at an extremely slow rate and remains a hazard for a long period of time. Hands and feet become cut and boats and rafts are damaged from broken glass.
(a)(1) Unmanned Aircraft, Rockets, Vessels, and Vehicles - Unmanned aircraft are usually propelled by small gasoline or electric driven engines. They are usually remote controlled but the operator does not have complete control over the craft due to winds or operator error. There is potential injury to bystanders, visitors, wildlife and vegetation from being struck by a fast moving aircraft. The use of aircraft may exclude other visitors from the use of an entire open field. The small engines are noisy and produce exhaust into the air, which affects the quality visit of other park visitors. Wildlife are often disturbed due to the noise associated with these types of devices. Reasons include the maintenance of public health and safety, protection of environmental or scenic values, protection of natural or cultural resources, implementation of management responsibilities, equitable allocation and use of facilities, or the avoidance of conflict among visitor use activities.
NPS Management Policies section 1.5 requires caution when a park is confronted with a new park use such as unmanned aircraft. The closure is a necessary, interim measure until the NPS considers how to address this new use on a long term basis and that allowing the use of unmanned aircraft before the park has properly evaluated whether this use is appropriate could result in unacceptable impacts to park resources, park values, and visitor safety.
Model rockets are usually propelled by small chemical driven engines. They are usually not controlled by the operator. There is potential injury to bystanders, visitors, wildlife and vegetation from being struck by a fast moving rocket. The use of rockets may exclude other visitors from the use of an entire open field. The small engines are noisy and produce exhaust into the air, which affects the quality visit of other park visitors. Wildlife are often disturbed due to the noise associated with these types of devices.
Model vessels are usually propelled by small gasoline or electric driven engines. They are usually remote controlled but the operator does not have complete control over the craft due to currents or operator error. The small engines are noisy, leave gasoline and oil residue in the water, which affects the quality visit of other park visitors. Wildlife are often disturbed due to the noise associated with these types of devices.
Model vehicles tend to need a lot of open space, such as a parking lot, to operate. Usage in a parking lot presents a safety hazard to bystanders and traffic alike. There are no acceptable locations in the park for a visitor to use a remote control vehicle in a safe and enjoyable manner. Wildlife can be disturbed due to the noise and movement associated with these types of devices.
(a)(1) Trail Games - Often this game involves running along a route that is marked by an advanced runner often at night. These markers are usually called “Hashes”. Runners chase the person marking the route who is usually called the “Hare”. The “Hare” drops flour or other material to mark the route. The marking material is not readily identifiable and causes concern to both visitors and park staff. This game encourages players to move off trail that leads to vegetative damage and erosion problems. Organizers of this type of activity are known to hold events in the park without prior approval or any attempt to obtain a Special Use Permit.
(a)(1) Geocaching Games - Geocaches typically are hidden in natural areas, archeological sites or in man made features. The object of this game is to locate well-hidden caches of materials stored in a container that may be buried. This game encourages participants to move off trail that leads to vegetative damage and erosion problems. Digging disturbs park resources and damages archeological sites. Sometimes cache containers are labeled as hazardous, radioactive, corrosive or explosive leading to misidentification by bystanders and first responders. This activity can be alarming to bystanders who misidentify the individuals when they observe participants hiding or acting in a suspicious manner to avoid detection. Organizers of this type of activity are known to hold events in the park without prior approval or any attempt to obtain a Special Use Permit.
(a)(1) Closures – Some areas of the park are closed periodically for public safety, resource management and maintenance reasons. These closures are to safeguard the public from hazards, prevent resource damage and to perform maintenance activities.
(a)(1) Akers Mill Administrative Area Closure - The Akers Mill Administrative area has no public facilities. This area is used to store government materials and equipment that need to be safeguarded from tampering and theft.
(a)(1) Island Ford Administrative Areas Closure – The Island Ford Administrative areas have no public facilities. These areas are used to store government materials and equipment that need to be safeguarded from tampering and theft. Residents of the living quarters deserve privacy in and around their quarters.
(a)(1) Settles Bridge and Jones Bridge Closure - The bridges at Settles Bridge and Jones Bridge are deteriorated bridges that are not maintained. The bridges are closed to all use in order to maintain public safety.
(a)(1) Restroom Pipe and Maintenance Chases Closure – All restroom pipe and maintenance chases have no public facilities. These areas are used to store government materials and equipment that need to be safeguarded from tampering and theft.
(a)(2) Motorized Wheelchairs and Personal Transporters - 36 CFR Section 1.4 excludes motorized wheelchairs from the definition of motorized vehicle, and separately defines motorized wheelchair as: a self-propelled wheeled device, designed solely for and used by a mobility-impaired person for locomotion that is both capable of and suitable for use in indoor pedestrian areas. 36 CFR Section 1.2 (e) states that the regulations in this chapter are intended to treat a mobility-impaired person using a manual or motorized wheelchair as a pedestrian, and are not intended to restrict the activities of such a person beyond the degree that the activities of a pedestrian are restricted by the same regulations.
Personal transporters are defined as a two-wheeled gyroscopically stabilized battery-powered personal transportation device like a segway. While a personal transporter is not designed solely for mobility-impaired persons, some individuals with disabilities use this device as their means of personal mobility in lieu of more traditional devices like the wheelchair. The NPS motorized vehicle exception that is already provided for motorized wheelchairs is extended to include personal transporters when used by an individual with a disability as his or her chosen means of mobility.
In order to provide the greatest park access possible for individuals with a disability, it is appropriate to allow motorized wheelchairs and personal transporters on park trails when used by an individual with a disability.
(a) Personal Flotation Devices – The wearing of personal flotation devices (PFD) saves lives. The Chattahoochee River between 1) Buford Dam and the Highway 20 bridge and 2) Morgan Falls Dam and the Morgan Falls boat ramp are listed as “hazardous waters” by the Georgia DNR. The river water level in this area rises rapidly with strong currents and water temperatures in the low 50° Fahrenheit range due to the proximity to Buford Dam. River users become stranded regularly in the river and drownings have occurred. Children under age 10 must wear a PFD when a vessel is under way anywhere on the Chattahoochee River for improved safety. The water temperature remains cold in the Chattahoochee River with sometimes strong currents below Highway 20 and the wearing of a PFD is highly recommended.
(a)(2) Park Passes - Daily and Annual Park Passes must be properly displayed to ensure compliance with this regulation. This is the only fair way to enforce the payment of park fees. Park passes must be placed in the interior of the vehicle to prevent theft. An annual park pass internet sales receipt is valid for 10 days since the actual park pass must be mailed to the purchaser. The annual park pass receipt carries no value and thus does not satisfy the display requirement of this section.
(a)(2) Special Use Permit Limits – Without this rule, some groups would reserve areas up to a year in advance for their exclusive use preventing other groups and individuals from having the opportunity to use park lands. The one hundred twenty (120) day limit on issuing permits ensures that areas are not reserved so far in advance to preclude use to others. The three (3) consecutive weekends or nine consecutive days in any thirty (30) day period limit on reserving the same area allows the land to rest to prevent overuse, damage to the resources and erosion.
(a)(2) Launching and retrieving any type of watercraft from the river bank at areas without a launch ramp will cause river and stream bank disturbance. This disturbance is in violation of the 50’ undisturbed natural vegetative buffer established by the 1973 Metropolitan River Protection Act.
The permits listed are required to implement closures, restriction and designations made in Title 36, CFR, Chapter I and this compendium. Without the permits, the Superintendent would have a series of discretionary closures, restrictions and designations. The permits allow an orderly system of visitor use management.
§2.1 Preservation of Natural, Cultural and Archeological Resources
(c)(1) The harvest of small quantities of fruits, nuts and berries has not been a problem in the park from the standpoint of resource preservation.
(c)(2)(i) The failure to establish a limit on the volume that may be collected each day could result in resource damage. The limit is set to minimize the possibility of harvest of resources in commercial quantity.
(c)(2)(ii) The restriction on gathering from or within reach of the ground prevents damage to resources from individuals climbing vegetation or the use of ladders. This restriction also increases safety and eliminates the chance of a person falling and receiving an injury.
§2.2 Wildlife Protection
(d) Preventing taken wildlife from being transported through the park reduces the chance that the animal was poached from the park. Subjecting drivers of vehicles operating on state and county roadways that pass through the park to this rule is unreasonable and not practical.
(e) Wildlife in the park are protected from harassment including the use of artificial lights for viewing. The park land is essentially islands in an urban area. In some cases, the park is the only place for wildlife to escape to a natural setting where they should be free from human interference.
§2.4 Weapons, Traps and Nets
(d) It is unreasonable to expect authorized armored car company officers in the performance of their official duties to obtain a permit from the Superintendent in order to carry their weapon while in performance of their official duties.
§2.10 Camping and Food
(a) The park has no facilities for organized camping. The park land is small in size, and in close proximity to urban development, so primitive camping is not practical. Serious resource impacts would be expected from a large number of persons camping. Camping may be allowed in infrequent instances by permit from the Superintendent when camping has a direct association with the purpose of the park visit and the group size is such that impact on resources are kept to a minimum.
(a)(1) Restricting the use of fires to grills or other appropriate containers will minimize the chance of human-caused wildfires, possible damage to adjacent private property, and degradation of park resources.
(b) Ensuring that no hot coals, ash or burnt material remain after a fire will minimize the chance of human-caused wildfires, possible damage to adjacent private property, and degradation of park resources. The requirement to deposit coals, ash and burn material in metal trash receptacles or removed from the park further reduces the chance of a re-ignition and keeps visitor use areas clean.
§2.14 Sanitation and Refuse
(a)(8) Requiring that human body waste be disposed in appropriate restroom fixtures in developed and front country areas protects public health and safety and park resources by preventing further bacterial contamination from runoff into the Chattahoochee River.
(a)(5) The proper disposal of pet excrement protects public health and safety, helps control the spread of disease, avoids degradation of the visitor experience from the sight and smell or fecal material and reduces bacterial contamination from runoff into the Chattahoochee River.
(e) It is impractical to allow park residents to keep pets. Park housing is in a dormitory style with areas being shared by multiple occupants. Pets often cause odor and cleaning problems and some occupants may be allergic to pets.
§2.16 Horses and Pack Animals
(b) The use of horses is not practical in most areas of the park due to trails designed for walkers and steep sections causing erosion problems. The Cochran Shoals trail is particularly fragile due to the trail surface being a compacted smooth gravel/sand mixture that is susceptible to damage from the hooves of horses. The irregular surface that would be created by horse use would destroy its value for jogging, walking and bicycling and promote erosion. The additional problems of manure on the trails would adversely affect the visitor experience.
(a) Smoking is prohibited to ensure a healthy workplace for employees and visitors.
§4.11 Load, Weight and Size Limits
(a) A permit is required of vehicles exceeding designated load, weight and size limits in order to protect park roadways from excessive wear and tear and damage. The park roads are relatively narrow and winding with limited forward visibility. Larger and overweight vehicles pose a significant safety hazard to other vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian traffic. Subjecting drivers of vehicles operating on state and county roadways that pass through the park to this rule is unreasonable and not practical.
§4.21 Speed Limits
(b) Speed limits on park roads need to be reduced from those stated in 36 CFR 4.21(a) for public safety. The park roads are relatively narrow and winding with limited forward visibility. The speeds identified are appropriate for the construction of the roads and the amount of pedestrian and bicycle activity that takes place on, along, and across the roads.
The speed of bicycles, motorized wheelchairs, and personal transporters is limited for the safety of the rider as well as pedestrians sharing the roads and trails. Maneuverability is necessary in order to avoid collisions and conflicts with other visitors.
Bicycles are allowed on the unpaved roads closed to public vehicle traffic located within Cochran Shoals because resource damage and conflicts with other visitor uses are minimal. These roadways are wider than a normal foot trail and permit multiple uses with minimal conflict.
Bicycles are allowed on trails that have been designed specifically for multi-use including bicycles. These routes have been evaluated under the National Environmental Policy Act, found to be consistent with the protection of park resources and will not disturb park wildlife. This use is in keeping with the park’s national recreation area status. Other areas of the park with unpaved roads closed to public vehicle traffic and trails are not suitable for bicycle use.
Bicycle use is alternated by day using signs posted at multi-use trail intersections identifying the direction of travel each day of the week. This permits pedestrians the choice of walking in the opposite direction so they meet bicyclists face-to-face for improved safety. This also helps to even the wear of the unpaved dirt multi-use trails so they will be more sustainable and require less maintenance.
Safety of bicyclists and pedestrians is of the utmost importance when using multi-use trails together. Sometimes bicycle users unintentionally frighten pedestrians and pets especially when moving on sometimes narrow winding dirt trails. The safest method of bicycles and pedestrians passing each other is when the bicyclist yield to pedestrians.