Discussion => Red River Gorge => Topic started by: jacksan on February 20, 2022, 12:07:06 PM

Title: The future of off trail-hiking?... Updated with the NFS reply
Post by: jacksan on February 20, 2022, 12:07:06 PM
After reading the final RRG Management Plan I have found very little on the future policy regarding off trail hiking:
I have written the NFS twice for clarification but have not received a reply. This is concerning.
Does anyone have insight on what the policy will be?

Submitting an official objection, such as objecting to the lack of clear policy, looks to be extremely difficult. Requirements for an objection are:

If anyone is qualified to object, there are only a few days left to do so!

I hope there is no reason for concern and that I am just being paranoid.
Title: Re: The future of off trail hiking ?
Post by: wsp_scott on February 21, 2022, 09:32:32 PM
My reading of the "plans" is that the FS is going to try to rehab some of the stupid user trails to make them more hidden, i.e. "discourage". And the FS is going to bring some user trails (Cloud Splitter, Indian Staircase, Douglas Trail, ...) into the "official" system. I don't see that the FS can possibly ban off-trail hiking. Honestly, at this point, I doubt that the FS knows what is going to happen since the plans as specified involve a lot of time and money and I'm not sure either one of those are in the budget.

Long story short, I think it is too early to panic :) Fingers crossed that the Gorge is in better shape 10 years from now than it currently is.
Title: Re: The future of off-trail hiking?
Post by: jacksan on March 01, 2022, 07:51:54 PM
Here is their thoughtful reply...

Off trail foot travel is permitted in the Red River Gorge and across the forest. Although if an area receives repeated constant use on user created trails, it can cause natural and cultural resource issues. For example, Copperas Falls and associated arches. When I first visited Copperas Falls in 2012, there was a single faint trail to the falls and arches. Today with the spread of information on social media, it is a highly visited area. There is a network of heavily trafficked trails that often lead to the same location. The trails to the arches from the valley essentially go straight up the hill, what we call a fall line trail. If a trail is on too steep of a grade, the trail become prone to heavy erosion, especially if no water control features are incorporated into the trail like water bars or rolling grade dips. The goal of the RRG Management Project is to assess these types of trails, adopt them in the system as official, and redesign them so that they are sustainable and can withstand continued use.  There are also concerns with many unmarked user trails leading to Search and Rescue operations. The solution here would be educating the public on the difference between official system trails and user created trails. Were a trail to be adopted into the system and redesigned, redundant user trails that lead to the same location would be naturalized to reduce erosion and limit SAR incidents.

The only circumstance when off trail travel would be prohibited is in locations with sensitive resources. Examples would be locations that contain endangered bat species or perhaps a rockshelter that contains artifacts eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Possibly an area where so much use occurs that it needs time to heal and naturalize. Although by designating a trail it would concentrate the use, negating the need for off trail prohibitions. I do not foresee the need for any blanket off trail travel prohibitions in the Red River Gorge. Any type of prohibitions would be small and very focused.

Balancing the popularity of the RRG with sensitive resources will indeed be a complex endeavor. Iím hopeful through adaptability and with further public input guiding implementation, the USFS can strike that balance.

Eric Dodd
Acting District Recreation Officer

Title: Re: The future of off trail-hiking?... Updated with the NFS reply
Post by: wsp_scott on March 14, 2022, 11:50:26 AM
Thanks for that official update