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Author Topic: Forest Service volunteer group receives regional award  (Read 376 times)

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Arthur

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Forest Service volunteer group receives regional award
« on: November 02, 2017, 02:49:53 PM »

Forest Service volunteer group receives regional award

WINCHESTER, Ky., Nov. 1, 2017 – At a special awards ceremony in Atlanta on Thursday, the U.S. Forest Service will present the 2017 Regional Forester’s Award to groups and individuals who have made significant contributions to natural resource management on national forest lands.

One group from Kentucky to receive recognition is the Sheltowee Trace Association, a nonprofit group whose mission is to protect, preserve and promote the Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail, a 323-mile trail that extends across eastern Kentucky and into Tennessee.

“Over the past six years, the association has contributed nearly 3,000 volunteer hours in trail improvement projects on the Sheltowee Trace,” said Forest Supervisor Dan Olsen with the Daniel Boone National Forest.

“The Forest Service is extremely fortunate to have such a dedicated group of volunteers to help maintain this national trail as a premier tourist attraction.

“This group has proven to be a vital partner in the Forest Service trail program, conducting volunteer service across three ranger districts.”

The STA founder and executive director, Steve Barbour, will attend the ceremony to accept the award on behalf of the association. The awards presentation will feature some examples of their most outstanding work.

“Our organization is honored to receive this special award and to be recognized for our hard work,” said Barbour.

“Many STA members spend multiple weekends each year conducting volunteer work along the trail. It’s hard work that involves lots of planning and coordination, and sometimes a bit of engineering, but we enjoy what we do as a service to our local communities.

“In addition to keeping the trail cleared and well-marked, our project work has improved many miles of trail surface, reduced soil erosion, and upgraded structures along the trail.”

In 2017, the STA completed a project at Van Hook Falls in Laurel County, Ky., where volunteers constructed three viewing platforms, a wooden bench for seating, and a stairway along a steep slope. The group used pack mules and utility vehicles to transport precut lumber to the site.

Along several sections of trail, the group has installed interlocking concrete pavers to harden the trail surface and reduce soil erosion into creeks and streams. The STA has also conducted several trail reroutes to reduce maintenance needs and promote local tourism. Their work has helped five communities achieve official Kentucky Trail Town designations.

The STA's goal is to extend the trail to 400 miles by 2019, the 40th anniversary of the Sheltowee Trace. Over the next three years, the groups plans to raise funds to replace more than 70 National Recreation Trail signs at road crossings.

Each year, the STA sponsors a Hiker Challenge for hikers to complete the entire trail over 11 months. These hikes are held up to three weekends each month to accommodate the greatest number of hikers. Association volunteers support the effort by shuttling hikers to trailheads, identifying dispersed campsites, and providing water and a support vehicle in case hikers get lost or cannot finish a section of trail. Since 2012, more than 200 hikers have completed the challenge by hiking all of the Sheltowee Trace.

The STA currently has nearly 500 members. This organization actively engages Boy Scout troops, university students and AmeriCorps volunteers. In an effort to improve efficiency, the association is forming chapters to help manage their volunteer program. The association has also developed an Outdoor Adventure Program to assists hikers with planning their route based on skills and time available.

“The Sheltowee Trace Association partnership with the Daniel Boone National Forest has been successful in improving trail conditions and providing a fun and safe trail experience,” said Olsen. “Thousands of hikers and other outdoor recreation enthusiasts enjoy this scenic trail year round.”
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Mark W

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Re: Forest Service volunteer group receives regional award
« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2017, 05:33:12 PM »

I applaud the work of the STA and for their efforts to improve the condition of the ST and raise awareness about what such a terrific hiking resource. I joined STA as a member in 2010, when they were first getting started, but have since let me membership lapse. I have an STA sticker from all those years ago still on a bike that I ride to work out here in Montana.

And I was actually chatting about the ST to some hikers a few weeks ago who were curious about what Kentucky had to offer in regard to "serious" backpacking. [As an aside, "serious" backpacking in Kentucky to me always meant going off-trail to find arches and waterfalls, but apparently having rhodo in your face for hours on end while hiking in uneven terrain with a backpack is an acquired taste].



Anyways . . . and with all due respect . . . and of course to be taken with a grain of salt since this is coming from the same guy who brought you the idea of an 8th Leave No Trace Principle to ask people to actually think before posting details about vulnerable landforms on social media . . .

Did they really need to put a bench there and an overdone staircase and turn one of Kentucky's nicest waterfalls that actually requires some hiking to reach into something more reminiscent of a state park-style roadside overlook?

That steep section has always had erosion issues and been less than pleasant to hike up, but I think something similar to the "steps" on -- I think -- Rough Trail going from Gray's Arch area to Rush Ridge would have solved the problem and preserved the integrity of the landscape. The bench is total overkill and in a time where everyone can be offended about something I am, quite frankly, offended by that damn bench.



I've returned to Kentucky only once for a friend's wedding in 2015 and was looking forward to heading back sometime for some hiking. Van Hook Falls and its environs, which hold immense sentimental value to me (documented in several trip reports on here for the avid readers in the audience), were on the top of my list. I am really troubled to see that if I hiked there now I would encounter infrastructure and "amenities" that could have been approached in a less visually intrusive manner.

From the pictures, it looks like if people were sitting on the bench and a hiker (especially one wearing a backpack) wanted to pass them to access the shelter behind the waterfall (where the most breathtaking views are), it would be pretty awkward. And I shudder to think about all the Mountain Dew bottles and Grippos bags and Slim Jim wrappers that will be finding a natural habitat under the bench.

This just seems to encourage our "go here, stand there, take that picture, check it off your list" type of culture we live in and that myself, and many others, venture out into ostensibly wild places to find a bit of reprieve from.



Apologies if this offended anyone. I would be really interested in discussion on this. Was this a solution in search of a problem? Seems to me like it was. Never in my dozens of visits to Van Hook Falls did I arrive and think "Man, I really wish I had a bench to sit on." Was Van Hook Falls seeing so much use that it was necessary to add these "improvements" to minimize impacts to the landscape?

Thoughts? Am I way off base? Mountain air out here finally killed all my rational brain cells?

Edited to toss in a few pictures of Van Hook Falls over the years to break up the text.
« Last Edit: November 02, 2017, 05:44:25 PM by Mark W »
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Bazinga

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Re: Forest Service volunteer group receives regional award
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2017, 07:39:43 PM »


As an aside, "serious" backpacking in Kentucky to me always meant going off-trail to find arches and waterfalls, but apparently having rhodo in your face for hours on end while hiking in uneven terrain with a backpack is an acquired taste.


Love the bushwhacking to explore the clifflines.   :)

Don't know when this happened but at some time in the past we crossed the line from dedicated to crazy.  LOL!!!
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wsp_scott

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Re: Forest Service volunteer group receives regional award
« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2017, 08:55:24 PM »

I was shocked this fall when I came across the bench. My first thought was "what the hell". My second thought was "this was a lot of effort that probably could have been used in other places"

With that said, I sat and had lunch on the bench and enjoyed the view of the falls and thankfully there was not a bunch of trash underneath the bench. Not where I would have chosen to invest volunteer labor, but it doesn't really detract from the falls.

The stairs up to the ridge were probably a good idea.
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Mark W

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Re: Forest Service volunteer group receives regional award
« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2017, 09:16:40 AM »

I was shocked this fall when I came across the bench. My first thought was "what the hell". My second thought was "this was a lot of effort that probably could have been used in other places"

With that said, I sat and had lunch on the bench and enjoyed the view of the falls and thankfully there was not a bunch of trash underneath the bench. Not where I would have chosen to invest volunteer labor, but it doesn't really detract from the falls.

The stairs up to the ridge were probably a good idea.

Thanks for the perspective. Glad to hear there wasn't trash there and that while you had the same initial feelings I likely would it didn't ultimately detract from your experience too much. Perhaps I was a bit overly negative in my initial reply to this topic. Some of my frustration certainly comes from what a special place the Van Hooks Falls area is to me. Arriving there to find what looks like the back deck of a cabin in Gatlinburg just wouldn't sit well with me.

While improvements to the steep section were likely a necessity, I just really wish they could've been done in a way that meshed more with the landscape. Steps on certain trails in the RRG and some of the CCC stone stepwork around Cumberland Falls are excellent examples of alternatives.
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RCKT_RCCN

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Re: Forest Service volunteer group receives regional award
« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2017, 03:36:20 PM »

I encountered the new stairs back in April during a monsoon. Given the weather I was actually quite grateful for the stairs and bench. It seems that with time and weathering it will begin to blend in more. Right now it sticks out like a sore thumb though. here's a picture of the view:

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Mark W

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Re: Forest Service volunteer group receives regional award
« Reply #6 on: November 03, 2017, 03:38:50 PM »

Beautiful waterfall!

Thanks for easing my concerns some, folks.

However, I do think it is also important to note that the larger and more complex the structure, the more maintenance will have to go into it over the years. Alternatives have much less "legacy" maintenance that needs to go into them.
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AmblingAmos

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Re: Forest Service volunteer group receives regional award
« Reply #7 on: November 04, 2017, 07:18:08 PM »

Although I have never been there, the last thing I would want to see if I did would be a park bench.  I go out to get away from people, and everything they create.  Stairs are distracting, but I understand their need for preventing erosion while making access easier, so I can overlook them.  Park benches are for parks!
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