Here's an excerpt from the Smoky Mountain News article. Scroll below for links to the entire article and to more info from the National Forest Service. (Photo by Jake Frankel)
More than 5 million people hit the trails in the Pisgah and Nantahala national forests last year — a number that continues to grow not only as more people move to the mountains but also as outdoor recreation increases in popularity.
The use of trails is at an all-time high, but the money to maintain them is shrinking. The Catch-22 has prompted the forest service to launch a year-long public process to chart a new trail strategy for the Pisgah and Nantahala.
“Outdoor trail recreation is increasing every year across the nation but particularly on our forest. We need an organized strategy for managing our trails and the increased interest and demand,” said Alice Cohen, the trails strategy coordinator for North Carolina’s National Forests.
The forest service wants to know what trails are in good shape, which ones are in bad shape, which ones need fixing, which should be kicked to the curb — and anything else the public wants to spout off about the future of trails in the region.
“The fact they are engaging the public is a good thing,” said Marcia Bromberg, president of Carolina Mountain Club. “We like being engaged. We hope we can all come out of this and move forward on the same page in a better way.”
While several trail groups plan to accept the forest service’s invitation to help chart a future trail strategy, they can’t help but wonder exactly what has prompted this sudden interest in a comprehensive trail management plan.
“I think they got a trail situation out there they can’t handle,” surmised Brent Martin with The Wilderness Society’s Southern Appalachian field office in Sylva.
Figuring out what trails actually exist, let alone the shape they are in, is a noble attempt, Martin said.
“Recreation in our national forest is a huge economic driver for Western North Carolina,” Martin said. “It is important for the agency to understand the use our trail systems have, the interest the public has in recreation, and how we all can be proponents and stewards of these pathways.”
... Want to weigh in?
The U.S. Forest Service wants your input to formulate a trail strategy for the Pisgah and Nantahala national forests. Any hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders are encouraged to participate by offering their thoughts and views about the trails.
A public meeting will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26, in Franklin at the Macon County Community Facilities Building at 1288 Georgia Road. Other meetings include Jan. 19 at Mars Hill College Peterson Conference Room and Jan. 30 in Brevard at the Hampton Inn.
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Here's the link to more info from the National Forest Service: http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/nfsnc/news-events/?cid=STELPRDB5341938Read the full article