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TNRC Meeting Minutes 3-9-2018

Meeting Minutes for Transylvania Natural Resource Council

Regular Meeting

March 9, 2018

Welcome

The meeting was called to order at 9:02 a.m. by Lee McMinn; the business meeting was called to order at 10:15 a.m. by Lee McMinn.

Roll Call:

David Whitmire                     Addison Bradley                               Bart Renner

Jennifer Kafsky                      Woody Noland                                  Lee McMinn

Mark Tooley                          Dan Hodges                                       Peter Chaveas

Kent Wilcox                           Aaron Bland                                      R.K. Young

Davis Whitfield-Cargile

In addition, 19 members of the public were present (including presenters).

Speaker Series:

Program consisted of a presentation by Jennifer Moore Myers regarding climate change impacts of forest resources; as well as a presentation by Jim Fox focusing on climate change in the Southern Appalachians.

Approval of Agenda:

None

Approval of minutes from February 2018:

R.K. Young made a motion to approve, Peter Chaveas seconded. Minutes were approved unanimously.

Future Presentations/New Business:

Program for April: 2017 National Climate Assessment to Congress and a video showing arranged by R.K. Young.

Program for May: Field trip to Courthouse Cut organized by David Casey and David Whitmire.

Program for September: Wes Knapp, N.C. Natural Heritage Program will present how to manage Significant Natural Areas.

Program for October: Subcommittee on Landslide Planning. Rick Wooten of NC DENR will be speaker.

Program for November: Cooperative Extension and the Environment: Bart Renner.

Program for December: Maria Wise, Watershed Coordinator, Mills River Partnership.

New Business:

Larry Chapman, Transylvania County Commissioner, sent Lee McMinn a request for T.N.R.C. to recommend a stance on trapping of foxes. Lee motioned that the issue be tabled until the fall; Peter Chaveas seconded. Motion passed unanimously.

Resolution in support of continuing AmeriCorps position: Brooke Burrows was introduced to the council. Bart Renner has proposed to the Board of Commissioners that the county partially fund future AmeriCorps position. Bart Renner also requested that the council write a resolution in support of funding the position. Lee McMinn made a motion to draft the resolution in support of funding a recurring AmeriCorps position. Mark Tooley seconded the motion, the motion passed unanimously.

Old Business:

Resubmission of Natural Resource Specialist Position: Position has been resubmitted. Lee McMinn encouraged members of the council to attend commissioner meeting to express support of a Natural Resource Specialist, landslide mapping, and AmeriCorp Volunteer.

Subcommittee on Significant Natural Heritage Areas: nothing to report.

Landslide Planning Subcommittee: subcommittee met with county staff (including planning department) to discuss landslide prevention planning. The subcommittee distributed preliminary findings and recommendations which are attached. Davis Whitfield-Cargile made a motion to ask the planning department to add another layer with landslide information to the county G.I.S., R.K. Young seconded, motion passed unanimously.

Davis Whitfield-Cargile made a motion that the T.N.R.C. request that the county manager seek funding through the state budget process for comprehensive landslide mapping, R.K. Young seconded, motion passed.

Hemlock Restoration Project: It is currently treatment season. A letter was sent to all landowners in the county whose land in in Present Use Value explaining the cost-share project. Other outreach projects include hosting workshops at community centers.

Updates from public land managers:

Pisgah National Forest, Alice Cohen: Dave Casey will send an email regarding an upcoming recreation project. The ability to hire for most vacancies has been delayed, only at approximately 60% staff. Most roads will be re-open soon. The Forest Management Plan revision has compiled thousands of public comments and input from collaborative groups with expectation that a draft will be published this summer.

Dupont State Forest, Wesley Skeedo: Road work and parking lot repair is ongoing due to freeze/thaw damage. Timber sale will end in the next few weeks. Staff has been collaborating with various colleges to provide educational opportunities.

Fish and Wildlife Conservation Council, Stakeholders Forum, David Whitmire: nothing to report.

Lee McMinn made a motion to adjourn, Dan Hodges seconded, approved unanimously.

The meeting was adjourned at 11:00 A.M.

Attachment to minutes

Forest Service

National Forests in North Carolina Pisgah Ranger District

1600 Pisgah Highway Pisgah Forest, NC 28768 828-877-3265

Fax: 828-884-7527

File Code:           1950

Date:         March 27, 2018

Interested Folks

The Pisgah Ranger District of the Pisgah National Forest is seeking public input on the Pisgah Ranger District Recreation Project 2018. Recreation is the primary way people experience their National Forest and the Pisgah Ranger District is no different. Each year, several million visitors come to experience the natural beauty and rich history of the Pisgah. People experience all this primarily through the infrastructure associated with recreation such as trailheads, trails, campgrounds, etc.

This project is designed to increase the sustainability of recreation on the district. It is not intended to address all possible improvements on the District but includes projects that are timely for various reasons.

Sustainability

The word “sustainable” has become something of a buzz word and, as such, it is easy to hear it and not really understand what is truly meant. Since this project is intended to increase the sustainability of recreation on the Pisgah, it is worth clarifying what we mean.

Social, ecological, and economic considerations are essential elements of a sustainable recreation site or trail. Sustainability is achieved at the junction where recreation resources are socially relevant and supported, ecologically resilient, and economically viable. With this in mind, you can see where a trail, for instance, that is widely supported by the public and doesn’t result in ecological resource damage could still be unsustainable if the financial resources needed to properly maintain the trail are not available.

Caring for the Land and Serving People                                    Printed on Recycled Paper 0

Purpose and Need

The following section defines the purposes and needs for this project and is divided into two categories: Trail System and Other Recreation Sites and Infrastructure.

Trail System

The Pisgah Ranger District has a unique 380-mile system of trails that are well-loved by locals and have recently become a national and even international travel destination. Many of the trails are multi-use with hikers being allowed on all 380 miles. Mountain biking is allowed on 175 miles, equestrian use is allowed on 65 miles, and 195 miles are designated as hiking only.

Additionally, there are 100+ miles of gated Forest Service System Roads that allow non­ motorized travel and are often used as a component of the trail system. Forty miles of trails are located within our two Wilderness areas.

The general character of the trail system is a steep, rocky, wild, connected series of trails surrounded by a lush forest with a stream never far away. The large system has significant connectivity from one side of the district to the other but has room for improvement with additional key connectors.

The trails have had recent improvements that increase the sustainability of the system and those efforts are ongoing. This is largely the result of major volunteer and partner efforts that tend to focus on improvements in the ecological and economic aspects of sustainability. Trails with resource issues are being relocated to better alignments, thousands of new drainage structures have been incorporated, and many sections of trail have been armored to provide stability and character. Every mile of trail is adopted by volunteer groups that are actively doing great trail maintenance. This is an awesome accomplishment. However, daily work is required to keep this level of maintenance and more intensive work is required to address deferred maintenance needs, which is our goal. It is also worth noting that these efforts have been done (and are being planned) in such a way that the character of Pisgah trails are being retained. This is in contrast to a sanitized, repetitious feel that some people might associate with a sustainable trail system.

One purpose of this project is to improve the sustainability of our trail system and the needs

associated with that purpose are listed below:

  • Ecological – There is a need to reduce erosion and sedimentation particularly where it impacts water
    • Lead a renewed focus on regular tread and drainage structure maintenance.
    • Relocate trails that contribute sediment to
    • Relocate very steep and erodible trail segments that are very difficult to maintain properly.
  • Social – There is a need to reduce trail user conflicts, create loop opportunities, increase opportunities for beginner trail users, increase education about responsible trail use, and maintain clean/safe trails befitting of a National Forest.
    • Explore where it makes sense to reduce the number of user groups on popular trails.
      • Create loop opportunities where a relatively small addition of trail miles creates desired connections.
      • Create new or redesigned trails in select locations to provide beginner trail user experiences.
      • Explore creative trail education
      • Provide additional, safe parking opportunities where the trails being accessed can absorb increased
    • Financial-There is a need to increase our support and recruitment of volunteers, increase partnerships, and explore other funding
      • Provide additional on-site presence and training with
      • Explore the possibility of a partner position to provide additional trail maintenance and volunteer coordination
      • Explore additional funding sources to provide consistent funding of regular maintenance and improvement projects (most of the projects proposed in this document have partners willing and able to help finance and maintain).

Other Recreation Sites and Infrastructure

In addition to the trail system and the innumerable waterfalls and other attractions, the Pisgah Ranger District offers a variety of more developed recreation experiences listed below:

  • Visitor Centers
    • Pisgah Ranger Station
    • Cradle of Forestry in America Historic Site
  • Campgrounds
    • Davidson River CG
    • North Mills River CG & Picnic Area
    • Lake Powhatan CG & Picnic Area & Swim Area
    • Sunburst CG
  • Group Camps
    • Cove Creek
    • White Pines
    • Kuykendall
  • Horse Camps
    • WashCreek
    • WolfFord
  • Day Use Areas

0       Sliding Rock

0       Looking Glass Falls & Picnic Area

0       Coontree Picnic Area

0      Stillwater Picnic Area

0      Shut-In Picnic Area

0       Numerous un-named roadside picnic areas

0      Sycamore Flats Picnic Area

0       Pink Beds Picnic Area

0       Stony Fork

  • Black Balsam / Graveyard Fields
  • 50 Designated Roadside Campsites
  • 21 Developed Trailheads

Another purpose of this project is to improve the sustainability of these more developed sites. The needs are similar to our trail system but they are often achieved in a different manner because of the nature of the infrastructure. We are working toward our goal of improved sustainability by addressing the needs listed below:

  • Ecological – There is a need to reduce negative impacts to streams (sedimentation, unregulated human waste, etc.). There is also a need to control non-native invasive species (NNIS) in these areas so they do not serve as source populations that infest nearby
  • Social – There is a need to maintain clean/safe sites befitting of a National Forest, maintain access to recreation sites for a range of socioeconomic visitors, and increase education about responsible use of the natural
  • Financial – There is a need to increase our support and recruitment of volunteers and partnerships. There is also a need to prioritize the reduction of deferred maintenance associated with developed

 Proposed Actions

The following section identifies actions being proposed to meet the purposes and needs identified above and move toward a desired condition. This section is divided into two categories: Trails Proposed Actions and Developed Recreation & Miscellaneous Proposed Actions.

Trails Proposed Actions

The proposed actions associated with the trail system are described below. Proposed action maps are attached with corresponding Project #’s.

Construct Big Laurel Connector Trail (Pr o ject # 1)

This trail would be constructed to connect the Big Creek Trail (TR102) to the Laurel Mountain Trail (TR121).

Authorized Use: Hike/ Bike (non-motorized)

Distance: 2.5 miles

Existing Surface: native topography

Purpose:    This would create a long distance loop opportunity and could also reduce unauthorized bike use of the Mountains to Sea Trail on Blue Ridge Parkway land.

Associated Actions: Change the authorized use of the Big Creek Trail (TR102), Laurel Mountain Trail (TRll0), and Pilot Rock Trail (TR321) between this new connector and Blue Ridge Parkway land to hike only.

Construct Middle Fork- Big Creek Connector Trail (Project #2 )

This trail would be constructed to connect the Middle Fork Trail (TR352) to the Big Creek Trail (TR102).

Authorized Use: Hike/ Bike (non-motorized) / Horse

Distance: 2.4 miles

Existing Surface: old woods road

Purpose: This would create a loop opportunity out of an existing “out and back” trail.

Associated Actions: None

Construct 2400 Connector Trail (Project #3)

This trail would be constructed to connect multiple trails and provide other benefits, as described below.

Authorized Use: Hike/ Bike (non-motorized)

Distance: 7 miles

Existing Surface: native topography and old woods road

Purpose: This trail would be constructed to connect Sycamore Cove Trail, Black Mountain Trail, Pisgah Ranger Station, Pressley Cove Trail, Bennett Gap Trail, Avery Creek Road as well as improving connectivity to the City of Brevard and the Davidson River Campground. It would also provide a less technical and demanding trail near the entrance to the District as well as provide an alternative to hikers and bikers that currently travel along Hwy 276 creating a safety hazard for them and motorists.

Associated Actions: Decommission a short section (0.4 miles) of Sycamore Cove Trail (TR143) from Hwy 276 up to the intersection with the 2400 Connector Trail.

Re-Route a portion of “Middle” & a small portion of “Lower” Black Mountain Trail (Project)

This trail would be re-routed to address ongoing resource problems, improve ecological sustainability and connect to a slightly different trailhead location.

Authorized Use: Hike I Bike (non-motorized)

Distance: 5.5 miles

Existing Surface: native topography

Purpose: The middle portion of the Black Mountain Trail has been entrenched for several years and requires a significant amount of regular trail maintenance to properly maintain it in its current alignment. Re-routing this section of the trail to a more contour-based alignment would reduce the maintenance and the ongoing erosion. The lower section of Black Mountain would be re-routed to a relocated trailhead parking lot away from Starens Creek (see project description below in the Developed Recreation Proposed Action).

Associated Actions: Decommission all sections of Black Mountain Trail where a re-route is constructed (2.25 miles).

Construct Butter Gap Connector Trail (Project #5 )

This extension of the Butter Gap Trail would be constructed to connect the existing Butter Gap Trail (TR123) to NFSR 5095.

Authorized Use: Hike I Bike (non-motorized)

Distance: 1.1 miles

Existing Surface: native topography

Purpose: This project would create a loop opportunity on a combination of trails and closed National Forest System Roads which would improve the safety of users that are currently traveling on heavily-used, open National Forest System Roads, e.g. Davidson River Road and Catheys Creek Road.

Associated Actions: Through various means, reduce the possibility of unauthorized bike use on the Art Loeb Trail.

Re-Route a portion of the Butter Gap Trail (Project #6 )

This trail would be re-routed to eliminate stream sedimentation issues from the current Butter Gap Trail (TR123) and to place the trail on a more ecologically sustainable alignment.

Authorized Use: Hike / Bike (non-motorized)

Distance: 3.75 miles

Existing Surface: native topography

Purpose: Sections of the current trail is immediately adjacent to a stream and this combined with a steep grade has resulted in sedimentation problems. This re-route would seek to eliminate these sediment inputs from the trail. The re-route would also make this trail more accessible to mountain bikers with less experience and yet be designed with optional alignments for those more experienced users.

Associated Actions: There are several associated actions with this project.

  • First, all of the existing trail on the upper end of the trail would be decommissioned once the re-route is constructed (1 mile).
  • Secondly, the section of the Long Branch Trail (TRl 16) that intersects with the Butter Gap Trail would be re-routed to eliminate the steep, entrenched trail that comes down to the Butter Gap Trail (0.2 miles).
    • Thirdly, on the lower section of the Butter Gap Trail, the section of the Butter Gap Trail between the re-route and the Cat Gap Trail (TR120) would be re-routed to avoid sedimentation problems, changed to only hiking as the authorized use and become the Butter Gap Connector
    • Fourthly, the section of Cat Gap Trail (TR120) between the Butter Gap Connector Trail and Grogan Creek would be authorized only for
    • Fifthly, the section of Cat Gap Trail (TR120) from lowest part of the re-routed Butter Gap Trail down to the Wildlife Education Center would be authorized for hike I bike use year-round.

Re-route a portion of Long Branch Trail (Project #7)

This trail would be re-routed to reduce the grade of the current trail.

Authorized Use: Hike I Bike (non-motorized)

Distance: 0.1 miles

Existing Surface: native topography

Purpose: This would improve the ecological sustainability of this steep section of trail.

Associated Actions: Decommission the existing section of trail (0.1 miles).

Re-Route a portion of Cantrell Creek Trail (Project #8)

Cantrell Creek Trail (TRI 48) would be re-routed to eliminate stream sedimentation issues from its current location.

Authorized Use: Hike/ Bike (non-motorized)

Distance: 2.5 miles

Existing Surface: native topography

Purpose: The section of trail being re-routed has numerous stream crossings and has caused the existing stream channel to shift onto the trail in places. This has caused sedimentation problems and this project seeks to resolve the problems by re-routing the trail far away from the stream.

Associated Actions: The 1.2 mile section of Cantrell would be decommissioned once the re-route is constructed. This stretch of Cantrell creek would be restored while the trail decommissioning is being performed as well.

Construct Horse Cove – Joel Branch Connector Trail (Project # 9)

This trail would be constructed to connect the Horse Cove Road (NFSR475C) to Joel Branch Road (NFSR5002).

Authorized Use: Hike I Bike (non-motorized)/ Horse

Distance: 1.2 miles

Existing Surface: native topography

Purpose: Constructing this trail would provide connectivity between three main areas – the entrance to the Pisgah Ranger District (Davidson River Campround, Pisgah Ranger Station, Estatoe Trail, etc.), the NC Wildlife Education Center, and the City of Brevard’s Bracken Mountain trail system.

Associated Actions: Through various means, reduce the possibility of unauthorized bike and horse use of the Art Loeb Trail where Joel Branch Road and Horse Cove Road cross the Art Loeb Trail. Parking for horse trailers can be a limiting factor at several trailheads. Therefore, a portion of the existing Black Mountain Trailhead (on the gravel side of Starens Creek) will remain accessible as an option for horse trailer parking.

Re-Route a portion of Bennett Gap Trail (Project #10)

This trail would be re-routed where it currently shares a trail prism with the Coontree Loop (TR144).

Authorized Use: Hike/ Bike (non-motorized)

Distance: 1 mile

Existing Surface: native topography

Purpose: This section of trail is steep and heavily used by hikers and bikers alike. The grade of the trail makes it difficult to maintain, especially with bike use. The grade of the trail (combined with the heavy use) is increasingly leading to user conflicts with bikes going downhill at high speeds among hikers. This trail re-route of Bennett Gap would allow this popular hiking loop (Coontree Loop) to be “hike only” while still allowing bikes along the entirety of Bennett Gap Trail. This could also reduce the amount of mountain bikes on Hwy 276 that currently come down the east side of the Coontree Loop during the October 15 – April 15 authorized use time period.

Associated Actions: This re-route is different than most in that the existing trail would be retained as the Coontree Loop (TR144). All of the Coontree Loop (TR144) would be authorized as “hike only” year round as part of this action.

Change the Authorized Use of the North Slope Trail to Hike Only (Project # 11) Authorized Use: Hike

Distance: 3.9 miles

Existing Surface: N/A

Purpose: Currently this trail is open to hike and bike from October 15 – April 15. This action would create a “hike only” loop adjacent to the Davidson River Campground. This action is balanced by the creation of the 2400 Connector Trail and the Horse Cove – Joel Branch Connector Trail which would both be authorized for bike use.

Associated Actions: Through various means, reduce the incidence of unauthorized bike use.

Heavy Maintenance of Looking Glass Rock Trail (Project # 12) Authorized Use: Hike

Distance: 3.1 miles

Existing Surface: designated trail

Purpose: This trail (TRl 14) receives a significant amount of visitation each year and is in need of some heavier than normal maintenance to protect the trail surface, reduce erosion and improve hiker’ s experience. The location of the trail would remain within the existing trail prism.

Associated Actions: None.

Heavy Maintenance of Trails in the vicinity of Graveyard Fields, Graveyard Ridge & Sam Knob (Project #13)

Authorized Use: Hike/ Bike/ Horse (depending on trail)

Distance: 22 miles

Existing Surface: designated trail

Purpose: This would apply to the following trails (Art Loeb Trail between NFSR816 and Shining Rock Wilderness; Art Loeb Spur; Graveyard Ridge Trail; Graveyard Fields Loop; Graveyard Ridge Connector; Mtn. to Sea Access; Lower Falls; and the Mountains to Sea Trail from east ofNFSR816 to the Blue Ridge Parkway, Sam Knob). These trails are highly eroded in certain areas and are in need of heavier than normal maintenance to protect the trail surface, reduce erosion and improve hiker’s experience. These trails are in the current condition for several reasons, such as the fact that these trails receive very high use, are exposed to some of the most extreme conditions on the Pisgah when it comes to moisture, freezing/thaw cycles and very erodible soils. The location of the trails would remain within the existing trail prism.

Associated Actions: None.

Trail Proposed Action Summary

Proposed Action Distance
Connector Trail Construction
Hike / Bike (non-motorized) 10.6 miles
Hike/ Bike (non-motorized)/ Horse 3.6 miles
Trail Re-Route
New Trail Construction 12.85 miles
Trail Decommissioning 5 miles
Change of Authorized Use
Hike I Bike to Hike Only 8 miles
Heavy Trail Maintenance
Various locations 25 miles

Developed Recreation & Miscellaneous Proposed Actions

The proposed actions associated with the more developed system are described below. Proposed action maps are attached with corresponding Project #’ s.

Relocate the Black Mountain Trailhead (Project #14)

Action: Construct an additional parking to the east of the Ranger Station parking lot to serve as the Black Mountain Trailhead.

Associated Actions: There are several associated actions with this project.

  • Re-route the first 05 miles of National Forest System Road 5061so that it doesn’t cross Starens Creek, but instead is located along the existing workcenter fence.
  • Restore 100 yards of Starens Creek immediately north of Hwy 276 by:
    • Removing the culvert associated with current location of NFSR
    • Decommissioning the existing parking lot on the east side of Starens Creek that is within 100 feet of the
    • Decommissioning the existing parking lot on the west side of Starens Creek that is between the new location of NFSR 5061 and the
    • Removing the weir located within Starens
  • Re-route the lowest portion of Black Mountain Trail to connect to the trailhead by going behind the

Purpose: The Black Mountain Trailhead is currently located on both sides of Starens Creek and within 10 feet of the creek bank. NFSR 5061 also unnecessarily crosses Starens Creek and there’s an unnecessary weir located within Starens Creek. This project would serve to restore the stream itself along with the riparian area associated with this stretch of Starens Creek. The relocated Black Mountain Trailhead would be designed to provide a similar amount of parking and be located so that trail users have more convenient access to the restrooms located at the Ranger Station Visitor Center.

Decommission a Portion of National Forest System Road 298 (Project #15)

Action: Decommission 0.3 miles of NFSR 298 between Hwy 276 and the Davidson River Campground Access Road.

Associated Actions: None.

Purpose: This section of road closely parallels the Davidson River and is not necessary from a transportation point of view. The decommissioned road would still be accessible open to foot travel. Generally speaking, it’s a challenge to properly maintain all of our National Forest System Roads so when there are roads or sections of roads that aren’t necessary then it’s beneficial from a financial and resource perspective to decommission them.

Replace Low-Water Fords on Cove Creek with Bridge or Bottomless Arch Culverts (Project

#16)

Action: Construct bridges or bottomless arch culverts at two locations where roads cross Cove Creek.

Associated Actions: None.

Purpose: This project would reduce sedimentation caused by the current low-water ford design and allow for travel across the creek during high water events.

Enlarge the Daniel Ridge Trailhead  (Project  # 17)

Action: Expand the current Daniel Ridge Trailhead. Associated Actions: None.

Purpose: This trailhead and the adjacent road can become congested to the point where large vehicles aren’t able to drive on Davidson River Road or access the closed NFSR for emergency vehicles. This similar scenario exists in other areas of the district and this project would start the process of addressing these issues. This project would be designed to better accommodate parking needs at this location so as to avoid blocking travelways.

Restore Catheys Creek Riparian Area & Improve the Municipal Water Supply/Intake (Project #18)

Action: There are several actions associated with this project.

  • Eliminate all designated roadside campsites along Catheys Creek Road (NFSR 471).
  • Decommission all user-created campsites and designated campsites along Catheys Creek Road without performing any soil excavation.
  • Restructure Catheys Creek immediately above and below the existing dam with boulders (at the City of Brevard water intake location) to effectively eliminate the aquatic organism passage barrier and reduce the need for future dredging by the City of
  • Stabilize Catheys Creek Road adjacent to the existing

Associated Actions: None.

Purpose: The City of Brevard municipal water supply intake is located on National Forest System Lands and as such, we have a responsibility to be good neighbors in managing the land, and use of the land, that impacts the water quality at this location.

On the Pisgah Ranger District, camping is prohibited within 1,000 feet of roads open to public vehicle access. The current reality on Catheys Creek Road is that there is significant authorized and unauthorized camping taking place. Activities associated with this camping impacts the water quality that the City of Brevard uses for municipal water. The water quality is degraded by erosion along the banks as well as human waste being handled improperly by campers. By eliminating all designated roadside campsites along Catheys Creek Road, it would then be illegal to camp within 1,000 feet of Catheys Creek road. This action, along with enforcement of the regulation, would help protect the municipal water supply of the City of Brevard.

Remove the Vault Toilet as Stony Fork Recreation Area (Project #19)

Action: Remove the above and below ground components of the closed vault toilet.

Associated Actions: None.

Purpose: This vault toilet has been closed to use for over 20 years because necessary repairs cost more than a new vault toilet. This infrastructure is a health and safety risk as well as adding unnecessary cost to our deferred maintenance backlog.

Why Here, Why Now?

The overall and individual purpose of these projects have been described already but we will delve into some additional context here. The large majority of these projects have been discussed and informally proposed for many years with partners and forest users. Most of the trail projects were also discussed as part of the 2013 National Forests in North Carolina Trail Strategy where several public meetings were held to gather public input on our trail systems. The majority of these projects also have realistic funding sources available in the near future (through partner-secured funds as well as agency funds). As we started with a long list of worthy potential projects, the ability to implement and maintain these improvements was a critical factor in determining this proposed action.

This proposed action also directly supports four of the five Forest Service priorities.

  • Being good neighbors and providing excellent customer
  • Promoting shared stewardship by increasing partnerships and
  • Improving the condition of forests and
  • Enhancing recreation opportunities, improving access, and sustaining

As referenced above, there are plenty of other good projects to choose from and we hope to move forward with similar proposed actions in the future. As we have the capacity to develop, analyze, implement and maintain future projects, we will reach out to the public in a similar manner as this one.

Public Involvement

We welcome your input on this proposed action and to identify potential issues (36 CFR 220). If you have questions about this project please contact Patrick Scott (trails) or Jeff Owenby (developed recreation) at the Pisgah Ranger Station at 828-877-3265 or by email at pscott@fs.fed.us or jowenby@fs.fed.us. Also, an open house will be held on April 10th at the Pisgah Ranger Station Visitor Center from 5:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. This will provide an opportunity to discuss the proposal and provide comments in person.

A preliminary assessment of the current proposal and potential future actions indicates there are no extraordinary circumstances and thus no significant effects for this proposal. Therefore, the proposal may qualify under the following categorical exclusions: Construction and reconstruction of trails, 36 CFR 220.6(e)(l); Restoring wetlands, streams, riparian areas or other water bodies by removing, replacing, or modifying water control structures such as, but not limited to, dams, levees, dikes, ditches, culverts, pipes, drainage tiles, valves, gates, and fencing, to allow waters to flow into natural channels and floodplains and restore natural flow regimes to the extent practicable where valid existing rights or special use authorizations are not unilaterally altered or canceled, 36 CFR 220.6(e)(18); and Activities that restore, rehabilitate, or stabilize lands occupied by roads and trails, excluding National Forest System roads and National Forest System trails to a more natural condition that may include removing, replacing, or modifying drainage structures and ditches, reestablishing vegetation, reshaping natural contours and slopes, reestablishing drainage-ways, or other activities that would restore site productivity and reduce environmental impacts, 36 CFR 220.6(e)(20)). If this project remains under a categorical exclusion after further assessment, it will not be subject to administrative review and appeal. Therefore, it is important that we receive your comments and interest pertaining to this project early. To be most useful, please submit comments within the official 30 day scoping period starting on March 28, 2018 and open through April 27, 2018.

The preferred methods to provide comments are either by attending the open house that will be held on April 10th or submitting comments electronically at: https://cara.ecosystem­ management.org/Public/Commentlnput?pro ject=5 3329. Please do not submit electronic comments by email. Additionally, comments may be oral or hand delivered to the Pisgah Ranger Station within our normal business hours from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or mailed to: Pisgah Ranger District, USDA Forest Service, Attn: Jeff Owenby, 1600 Pisgah Highway, Pisgah Forest, NC 28768. Comments will become part of the project record and may be released under the Freedom of Information Act.

You can follow the progress of this project by visiting the project website.

DAVID M. CASEY

District Ranger