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Development on a 50-acre inholding in the Fires Creek Area of Nantahala National Forest could pollute trout streams and degrade the trails—including the classic 26-mile Fire Creek Rim Trail.

The U.S. Forest Service is in the initial stages of considering a proposal for road access to the inholding. The Phillips Ridge Trail, which follows Laurel Creek, would be converted into a road for the inholders. The proposed road would be only a few feet from Laurel Creek, presenting sedimentation issues and other environmental hazards. A development with road access in the midst of this otherwise unspoiled area would also degrade prime wildlife habitat and negatively affect the Rim Trail that surrounds the area.

“The combination of impacts to the Phillips Ridge Trail and the Rim Trail would impact the recreation potential of the entire watershed,” says Ryan Griffith of WNC Alliance.

A 0.9 mile section of the Phillips Ridge Trail was upgraded in 2006 for higher level road use using public storm damage funds. According to Griffith, this road upgrade was not in the public interest and was counter to the uses called for in the Nantahala Management Plan. Yet the proposed development access relies on this upgraded section of road. Griffith and WNC Alliance maintain that it is not appropriate to keep this upgrade that the public does not need or want for the benefit of the developers. This section should be returned to its service as a trail and stream impacts that resulted from this upgrade should be addressed.

The Forest Service is currently receiving public comments on the proposal through June 6 at: comments-southern-north-carolina-nantahala-tusquitee@fs.fed.us.

More info: wnca.org

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