The Forest Service is requesting public comments on building/designating 5 new trails through the upper Chattooga River’s wild and scenic corridor, to provide increased river access for boaters and foot travel. The new trails are being proposed at Green Creek, Norton Mill Creek, Bull Pen Bridge, Burrell’s Ford Bridge and Lick Log Creek.
One of our major concerns is for the fate of the Chattooga Cliffs reach, due to the proposed trails at Green Creek and Norton Mill Creek. Here in the Chattooga’s remote headwaters, there exists a unique backcountry experience where one can find solitude as well as the most biologically rich place in the whole Chattooga River corridor. New trail construction would undoubtedly funnel more people into the once-remote headwaters and also result in the creation of countless new user-created trails, which would degrade and damage this fragile resource. In addition, the justification for these 2 trails to accommodate boaters is irresponsible because: 1) there is a huge log jam two stories high all the way across the river ¼ mile below Norton Mill Creek; and, 2) the Green Creek trail is proposed for very erodible soils that are rated at the highest level for the greatest negative impacts from paths and trails.
Then, there is also the proposed construction of a boater take-out trail at Lick Log Creek, which would require paddlers to carry boats for about 1 mile along a heavily used hiking trail to reach a parking area. This makes no sense, because there is already a major access point just a few miles downstream near the Highway 28 Bridge, which already has a large paved parking lot and boat ramp to the river.
Ironically, the Forest Service—the agency in charge of protecting the Chattooga River—has yielded to the pressure of special interest groups and failed to recognize a more equitable alternative as proposed by the Chattooga Conservancy to resolve the controversy about allowing whitewater boating on the upper Chattooga. One key provision of our alternative is that it would not require any new access construction into the wild and scenic river corridor. Managing for a back country experience is one of the primary management objectives for a “wild” river, and a bedrock principle of back country management is nothing kills wildness quicker than too much access.
Please comment on the Forest Service’s proposal to construct and designate 5 new trails into the Chattooga River headwaters, which would needlessly cause significant resource damage in the upper Chattooga watershed. Endorse the Chattooga Conservancy’s alternative to the upper Chattooga controversy, which would allow boating from Bull Pen all the way down to Highway 28, year-round and when the water levels are high enough for paddling but too high for fishing, with reasonable restrictions on numbers to protect the wilderness experience. Comments are due by August 28, 2013, and may be submitted electronically to: email@example.com.