Lower Trace Ridge Relocation FAQ
Pisgah Area SORBA is excited to announce that we are part a relocation project on Trace Ridge Trail, in the area near the base of the ridge at North Mills River. This is a volunteer-driven project to help the Forest Service solve a watershed resource problem, and is an important opportunity for all trail users in the Pisgah National Forest.
You’re taking away my favorite technical riding feature in Pisgah. What gives?
The U.S. Forest Service has identified the lower part of Trace Ridge as a “resource management issue,” which in layman’s terms means that every time it rains, water is carrying sediment from the trail into Mills River. The rock feature that is so fun to ride, and the chute below it, accelerate the water run-off and continue to erode the trail directly into the watershed
a watershed which, in this case, is a source of drinking water to thousands of people. Water quality is very important, and trumps riding experience in all cases.
But why now? Doesn’t PAS have better things to do?
Building new trail on Federal land (as well as many other public lands), in particular if it is a relocation such as this, requires that several assessments be completed; these are colloquially referred to as “NEPA,” a reference to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. In this case, the Forest Service has completed all the necessary studies, making the project “shovel ready,” and two experienced trailbuilders (and PAS supporters) scouted the proposed reroute and pin-flagged it into place, in keeping within the assessment guidelines. In discussing and setting priorities for the work PAS does within the Pisgah Ranger District, the Forest Service would like to see resource problems such as this tackled as opportunities arise; in this case, the chance to partner with the Backcountry Horsemen of Pisgah presented itself, and we asked to be a part of the project.
Wait, you mean you’re working with the equestrians?
Pisgah Area SORBA is partnering with the Backcountry Horsemen of Pisgah (BCHP) to build the reroute on Lower Trace Ridge. This is a fantastic opportunity for two volunteer groups to work together to build new trail!
So you’re building a horse trail?
Any trails open to mountain bikes in Pisgah are, by definition, multi-use trails. We share all our trails with hikers, equestrians, or both. In this case, Trace Ridge (Trail 354, below Parkway land) is open to all three users.
But won’t building a “multi-use trail” mean it gets “sanitized?”
Every trail on USFS land has a “Trail Class,” a “Designed Use” and possibly a “Managed Use.” In simple terms, the “Class” defines generally the feel of the trail; think of the “Designed Use” as the largest common user for which the trail is built, and the “Managed Use” is other users also allowed on the trail. In this case, Lower Trace Ridge is a Trail Class 2, with a “Designed Use” of Pack and Saddle, since horses are the largest user, and “Managed Use” for both bicycles and hikers. As you can experience for yourself in other parts of Pisgah, Class 2, Pack and Saddle trails can be quite rugged and are far from “sanitized.” PAS will work with BCHP to define a trail experience that is appropriate for the area while addressing the immediate resource need. (For more specific guidelines, USFS documentation is available here: http://www.fs.fed.us/recreation/trails_class.pdf)
Will you use a machine to build the trail?
Experienced trail builders have assessed the area and believe that machine work will likely be necessary to complete the reroute. The project will begin with hand work, and plenty of volunteer hours will be needed; we will work with the Forest Service and BCHP to determine the best use of machines as the project progresses.
What about the Brushy Ridge timber sale in the area?
Relocating Lower Trace Ridge has nothing to do with a timber sale. It is a water resource management project.
Can I help build this trail?
As long as you are on the approved roster of Pisgah Ranger District volunteers (http://www.pisgahareasorba.org/trails-2/pisgah-volunteers/), you are welcome to join any announced work day. At this time, we plan to host work days both as PAS days (open to BCHP volunteers) as well as join those hosted by BCHP. We will announce work days via our current email system. Please note, as with all District work, you must be part of a work crew with a Crew Leader in attendance to do work on the trail.