12/23/11 — Trail management becoming parks issue

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Trail management becoming parks issue

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on December 23, 2011 1:48 PM

Hiking trail maintenance is not an easy job.

Branches and debris must be removed from hiking areas. Litter and trash must be collected, and trail markers and navigational tools must be kept updated and in place.

With hundreds of miles of trails under its supervision, the USDA Forest Service decided to ask for help. The response was both positive and productive.

This week, the forest service announced a cooperative effort with several trail-using groups such as the Boys Scouts of America and the American Hiking Society to help keep all of the resources within national forest lands in top shape throughout the coming years.

Workshops will be held at all four national forests in North Carolina next year to advise attendees on how to best maintain the trails depending on weather conditions and seasonal occurances, such as tropical weather.

"Referred to as the Non-motorized Trails Strategy, this effort gives partners the opportunity to identify sustainable forest trail systems," Forest Supervisor Marisue Hilliard said. "I believe this initiative will produce high-quality trail systems that will better serve our visitors and the land."

Public workshops for Pisgah and Nantahala National Forest trails start in early January 2012. The Uwharrie and Croatan National Forests meetings start in summer 2012.

The forest service hopes that the result will be recommendations for a comprehensive trail management plan for each national forest in North Carolina, along with a stronger network of volunteers to assist with the management efforts.

Trail use across the state has increased each year since 2008, but the resources and manpower available to maintain the trails has remained the same. The focus of the workshops will be on sustainable trail management.

The forest service will use information generated from this process for the Nantahala/Pisgah National Forests Management Plan revision slated to start in 2013. The national forests in North Carolina cover 1.25 million acres of land and encompass 1600 miles of non-motorized trails.

Approximately five million visitors made use of national forest land in some capacity in 2010.