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Author Topic: USDA FS Meeting Tuesday, 6/22/21 6pm: Red River Gorge Planning Project  (Read 1282 times)

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jacksan

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https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/dbnf/home/?cid=fseprd923064
https://www.facebook.com/groups/rrgmanagement


June 22 - Red River Gorge Planning Presentation

The Daniel Boone National Forest, Cumberland Ranger District Ranger District, will host a virtual public presentation of proposed management actions for the Red River Gorge on Tuesday, June 22, 2020, from 6:00-7:30 pm EST.

This presentation will provide an overview of the draft Comprehensive River Management Plan for the Red Wild and Scenic River and the environmental analysis of the plan as well as the associated proposed actions in the river corridor and throughout the Red River Gorge.  Project managers will provide examples to illustrate how the proposed actions will be implemented over time to improve resource conditions while providing for recreation opportunities in the Red River Gorge.
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Captain Blue

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Highlights from the Red River Gorge Planning meeting on 6/22/21 about the PROPOSED management changes:

* RRG gets heavy recreational use
* There are serious impacts to irreplaceable resources
* USFS is developing a new management paradigm for the next several decades
* COVID-19 didn't cause this new plan but magnified the need for the new plan
* Recreation Use = Current: Undeveloped and undesignated, Future: Developed and designated
* Backpacking will still be the primary use of RRG
* RRG has 1,000+ front and user-created backcountry campsites. This is too many
* Restrict all camping to designated campsites only. No more dispersed camping
* Campsites will be located at least 100 feet below the top of cliff lines (no more camping on ridges)
* Campsites will be located to have no or limited expansion ability (to prevent user-created expansion)
* Campsites will be above the 100-year flood plain (no more streamside camping)
* Campfires will be restricted to designated fire rings
* Expect many temporary closures to allow land to heal where users have created impacts
* Parking, front and backcountry, will be limited to designated parking spots only
* A lot of restoration is proposed for RRG
* Climbers: No new bolts or fixed anchors in Clifty Wilderness
* Paddlers: Put in and take out at designated areas only
* Expect more of a structured outdoor recreation experience
* Changes will be phased in at different areas over time
* USFS will provide more online and mobile tools for users (recreation.gov)
* 30-day public comment period about proposed changes begins June 24
* These notes were taken and typed by private citizen Andy Niekamp. They may contain errors or omissions.
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RCKT_RCCN

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Thanks for sharing. It will be interesting to read through the whole report tomorrow when it is posted. The point that sticks out the most to me is the decommissioning of 150 miles of user trails through the area. In listening I think it was described as a temporary closure of those areas while the land heals, then the ban will be lifted. But how long that takes is yet to be determined.

Bottom line, if you've got a favorite spot that's off the official system, better visit it again soon because it might be the last time (they did say 50 miles are being adopted into the system, so maybe some of the more popular spots will still be accessible, but again how long it's closed while they reconstruct the trail is yet to be determined).

They did say they don't have a problem with a "choose your own adventure" approach to enjoying the forest, just that we will have to do that somewhere else - no longer in the Gorge.   :(

Fellow bushwhackers, be prepared. Change is a-comin'.
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wsp_scott

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Thanks for posting this.

It will be interesting to see what actually happens. But unless there are a lot of rangers out on the trails, I don't see how most of these ideas can be implemented/enforced, especially the unofficial trails and campsites.
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Captain Blue

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During the meeting, they mentioned the Great American Outdoors Act, general congressional funding, and user fees as sources of funds to implement this proposed plan. They did not mention more law enforcement dollars but I suspect there will be. Mainly from increased user fees.
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jacksan

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Any time frame or schedule mentioned?


The "Visitor Capacity Analysis" (20210615RedRiverCapacityAnalysis (PDF 1547kb)) document is pretty explicit on some of the plans. Link is found at the bottom of this page, on the ANALYSIS tab:
https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=59892&exp=overview

Examples:
Day Use Destination Point Capacity on page 15:
  • Eastern Osborne Bend Trailhead and Copperas Creek Canoe Launch (includes Eagle Point and Moonshiners Arch)
  • 37 current parking spots
  • 15 proposed additional parking spots
  • 1 proposed shuttle stop, 3 trips per day
  • Gladie Visitor Center and Historic Site)
  • 66 current parking spots
  • 10 proposed additional parking spots
  • 2 proposed shuttle stops, 8 trips per day
  • Sheltowee Trace trailhead and Suspension Bridge (includes Jump Rock)
  • 17 current parking spots
  • 5 proposed additional parking spots
  • 1 proposed shuttle stop, 8 trips per day
  • Chimney Top Rock and Princess Arch
  • 15 current parking spots
  • 25 proposed additional parking spots
  • 1 proposed shuttle stop
etc ...
EDIT: IT LOOKS LIKE PROPOSED SPOTS ARE IN ADDITION TO EXISTING SPOTS (see table 3, page 17).


Overnight Use, found on page 20:
  • "Wild" areas will have maximum 15 Semi-Primitive campsites
  • "Recreational" areas will have maximum 20 campsites:
         5 Semi-Primitive
         10 Roaded Natural
         5 Concentrated Use
For a total of only 35 camping sites (am I reading that right?)
I see no mention of Tunnel Ridge Road so that appears to be beyond the scope of this initiative.


« Last Edit: June 27, 2021, 07:47:00 PM by jacksan »
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upfromtheashes

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This is actually far worse than I feared. 
I will never camp in the Gorge again under these conditions, so I guess mission accomplished.  One less visitor to the Gorge.
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RCKT_RCCN

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For a total of only 35 camping sites (am I reading that right?)
I see no mention of Tunnel Ridge Road so that appears to be beyond the scope of this initiative.


That's only spots along the River corridor as defined by the Wild and Scenic River boundaries. Information about the rest of the RRGGA is located in the Environmental FONSI document. There will still be quite a few front country and backcountry campsites.

As I read through it, I began to realize that whether it's what we want, a lot of the plans are indeed what's needed and will improve the user experience long-term. I recognize that I'm guilty of first-visit nostalgia. It's easy to always see the Gorge as this magical place of isolation and gloss over the human-created impacts. In my mind it's always going to be the way it was when I first started going there, but the reality now is what I've experienced the few times I've been there on a Saturday over the last couple of years.

I'll never forget leaving Auxier Ridge on a Saturday and seeing the dust storm of vehicles passing by on Tunnel Ridge Rd, people parking more than a mile from Auxier Ridge trailhead and walking down the road, undoubtedly inhaling all that rock dust. That's not good, something needed to change.

In that respect it's actually good they are implementing changes to front country camping. The plan calls for dispersing the front country sites along additional corridors such as Chimney Top, Rock Bridge Rd and Sky Bridge, and restricting the numbers along Tunnel Ridge. I think that will help improve the overnight experience. Hopefully no more strangers staggering through in the middle night, setting up a tent twenty feet from you at 2 am (I will miss some of my favorite spots, though, when they are inevitably eliminated).

Even though the FONSI document didn't provide specific maps of locations for new trails, it did mention places like Hanson's Point, so I also think there's hope long term that some of the more popular spots will still be accessible, even if there's a lengthy closure for the construction of approved trails. Which again, is a good thing for long-term durability.

Bottom line, I realize that if I were in the room trying to make these decisions I probably would have agreed with most of what the Forest Service has proposed. I don't know what else they could do given the numbers of visitors coming each year. Some of us have suggested the Gorge become a National Park, well - that's what the experience is going to be like in a few years. It won't be what I remembered from my youth, but perhaps it will be better for my children in theirs.
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Bazinga

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I'll never forget leaving Auxier Ridge on a Saturday and seeing the dust storm of vehicles passing by on Tunnel Ridge Rd, people parking more than a mile from Auxier Ridge trailhead and walking down the road, undoubtedly inhaling all that rock dust. That's not good, something needed to change.


Last time I drove on Tunnel Ridge Road a couple of months ago, it was a steady stream of traffic both directions. When we arrived at the Auxlier trail head there was a ranger directing traffic back out.  No open parking spaces anywhere!!!
But the absolute worst traffic I have ever encountered at the RRG was Bison way trail head several years ago. Cars parked on both sides of the road (some with two wheels barely off the pavement) with lots of folks walking back & forth. It was like driving with only one lane in Gatlinburg.  >:(   :(  :'(
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ShifuCareaga

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Looks like I just missed this by about a week. Darn.
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Captain Blue

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Quote
Looks like I just missed this by about a week. Darn.

The 30 day public comment period is still open.
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