The U.S. Forest Service has proposed an ambitious plan to build new trails in the Pisgah National Forest. With the recent explosion in visitor growth, they are seeking to reduce trail erosion and sedimentation while providing better access and a safer area for both locals and tourists to enjoy the forest in Western North Carolina.

Known as the Pisgah Ranger District Recreation Project 2018, the plan details 13 major trail projects. In addition to building new trails, this plan calls to perform some much-needed trail maintenance on the existing trails as well as closing particular trails to some users.

The creation of a 2.5-mile Big Laurel Connector Trail that will attach the Big Creek and Laurel Mountain Trails is the first project that is detailed in the plan. It aims to reduce unauthorized bike use on the hiker-exclusive path and create a long loop opportunity for some hikers.

The proposal also calls for the closure of trails for some users as well as the performance of some much-needed trail maintenance.

One project calls for portions of the Middle and “Lower Black Mountain Trails to be rerouted with hopes of reducing the ongoing erosion. Another plan seeks to change the North Slope Trail, a trail that currently invites both hikers and bikers, to a hike-only path.

Brittany Scales

Photo courtesy of Brittany Scales.

Project No. 12 calls for “heavy maintenance” on Looking Glass Rock Trail and Project No. 13 calls for “heavy maintenance in the vicinity of Graveyard Fields, Graveyard Ridge, and Same Knob.”

The Pisgah Ranger District Recreation Project also details four additional projects regarding developed recreation. One of these projects seeks to relocate the Black Mountain Trailhead.

The Asheville Citizen Times reported that the goal of these projects is to increase the sustainability of recreation and improve water quality.

Unfortunately, funding for the trail maintenance and creation is limited. All national forests are managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and maintained with tax dollars. But the Asheville Citizen-Times reported that “funding for trail maintenance has not kept pace with the increase in recreational use.”

For this reason, trail improvement and renovation often take effect with the help of volunteers.

To learn more about the plan, visit  www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=53329.

Comments about the proposed plan can be submitted online or in person by April 27 at the Pisgah Ranger Station or mailed to Pisgah Ranger District, USDA Forest Service, Attn: Jeff Owenby, 1600 Pisgah Highway, Pisgah Forest, NC.