We are excited to provide information on some of the recent and planned trail work in the Wilson Creek Wild and Scenic River Area of the Grandfather District. Noticeable changes are starting to occur on some trails, and this post is intended to summarize where things are to date.
Since 2013, the Alliance has been working with the Grandfather Ranger District to provide strong support for the mountain biking trails in Wilson Creek. In 2014 a Volunteer Service Agreement (VSA) was signed between the Alliance and the District, and we have been working together on many fronts ever since. The VSA tiers to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between our parent organization, the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Organization (SORBA), and USFS Region 8. Many other SORBA chapters do similar work on USFS lands under this larger agreement.
In May, the Grandfather District released the Scoping Documents for the Mortimer Area Trails Project. The proposal outlines the overall vision for the Mortimer area as it relates to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, but doesn’t include some of the planned maintenance projects (since that is in-corridor work). Mortimer was chosen as a target area for several reasons. Aside from trail condition and maintenance needs, in general, targets for work have good loop potential with other trails and forest roads, good trailhead access with parking, and are also close to camping and other forest recreational opportunities.
The collaborative work by the Alliance and Grandfather District is guided by many avenues of public input. Comments have been received through the scoping process and also public meetings held by the Alliance. There has been overwhelming support for this project. Recommendations from the NFsNC Non-Motorized Trails Strategy and the Market Analysis of Mountain Biking in the Southern Appalachian National Forests have also contributed to planning.
Volunteers have been busy. Downed tree removal, corridor trimming, and light tread work are some of the maintenance tasks that have taken place in this zone. In the past year alone, Woodruff Ridge, Yancey Ridge, and several sections of Wilson Ridge have been cleaned up by volunteers. This is ongoing.
The heavy stuff is being contracted out to professionals, such as Terra Tek Trails, who has done all of the work at these locations so far. This work includes the use of machines to re-establish positive drainage and outslope the trails, but also includes hazard tree removal and some hand-work. Even with mechanized maintenance, the goal is to keep the inherent character and challenge of the trails.
The “21 Jumps” section of Upper Wilson Ridge trail is the most recent example of contracted work. Other areas that have been improved with mechanized maintenance include Upper Schoolhouse (2018), Upper Wilson Ridge near SR 90 and the Schoolhouse Connector (2016), and Greentown (2015/16).
Reroutes and New Trails
This is the tough one. Doing work on any government land takes time, but this takes the most time! In order to “dig” outside of the trail corridor, the work must comply with NEPA. This includes Botanical and Archaeological assessments as well as any additional planning that would minimize the impact of trail construction. The environmental work for all of the trails listed in the scoping documents has been taking place since late 2017. This is currently nearing completion, and when finished, some of the planned out-of-corridor work can start. As outlined in the scoping documents, this project will add over ten miles of bike-designated trails to the system.
The cost for the contracted work is not cheap. Many sources are contributing to the funding, including grants, USFS budgeted money, as well as Alliance-raised dollars. Volunteers are also part of the equation as they are often working in coordination with the professionals to get the most bang for the buck through planning, assessments, and corridor prep. We also look to partner with other like-minded stakeholders to achieve some of our goals. Often this ends up helping our projects. Some of these organizations include Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail, Tanawha Adventures, Trout Unlimited, and Wild South.
We need more help.
If you’d like to get involved with the trails in this project, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can answer your questions and help you connect to some of the work that needs to be done to complete the project.
Thanks for your support and we look forward to seeing you on the trails!