Users straying from designated trails in the Uwharrie National Forest have caused the indefinite closing of two trails in the Badin Lake Recreation Area, the U.S. Forest Service said today.
Rocky Mountain Loop Off-Highway Vehicle Trail and Hang Glider Horse Trail have been "closed for further review."
The closings are "because of excessive damage to the natural resources of these areas," a news release says. "The damage is directly related to the recreational uses of OHVs, horses and dispersed camping in these areas."
An emailed version of the release, but not the online version, says: "The damage was caused by some users venturing off designated trails and out into the Forest."
Rocky Mountain Loop is a 2.8-mile moderate trail near parking for the Badin Lake OHV Trail Complex's Art Lilley dispersed camping area. It is blazed with orange diamond trail markers.
The Hang Glider Trail is a 1.4-mile trail rated as difficult that leads to a scenic view of Hang Glider Rock. It is blazed with salmon blazes.
The Forest Service will keep the trails closed until they figure out how to protect the sensitive resources in these areas.
The Badin Lake Recreation Area has 17 miles of OHV trails and about 40 miles of hiking, biking and bridle trails.
Tickets will be issued to anyone found using OHVs, horses or dispersed camping in or along the closed trails, the news release says.
Higher fees are likely at seven National Forest recreation sites in North Carolina, the National Forest Service said in a news release this morning.
The proposed increases are for:
* Cedar Point Campground in the Croatan National Forest. Fees would increase from $12 to $20 per night for single campsites. The electrical surcharge would increase from $5 to $7.
Campsite fees at Cedar Point have not increased in 15 years, while operation and maintenance costs have risen, the Forest Service says.
* Arrowhead Campground in the Uwharrie National Forest. Fees for single campsites would increase from $12 to $18 per night and from $24 to $36 at double sites. The electrical surcharge would increase from $3 to $7 per night.
High visitation has increased maintenance costs, the Forest Service says. Additional revenue will help pay for the costs of campground hosts, as well as maintaining and operating water, sewage and other facilities.
* Canebrake Horse Camp in the Uwharrie. Fees for single and double campsites, which are $12 and $24, respectively, would be $18 and $36, the same as at Arrowhead Campground. All sites have free electrical hookups, but an electrical surcharge of $7 would be instituted.
High visitation has increased maintenance costs. Additional revenue will help pay for the costs of campground hosts, as well as maintaining and operating water, sewage and other facilities.
* Sliding Rock Recreation Area in the Pisgah National Forest. Daily admission would increase from $1 to $2. Annual passes would remain at $25.
"Additional revenue is required to operate this extremely popular site, which often receives 1,000 or more people a day," the Forest Service says. Fees will pay for expanded hours for lifeguards and maintenance of the site.
Shooting ranges in the Nantahala National Forest would see fee increases that would, in part, standardize rates. Also with the new fees, an annual pass would allow shooters to use all three ranges in the Nantahala. The fees are needed to address maintenance needs and other costs associated with increased visitation, the Forest Service says.
* Dirty John Shooting Range daily fees would increase from $3 per vehicle to $3 per person. Annual fees would increase from $7 per vehicle to $25 per person.
* Moss Knob Shooting Range fees would be instituted at $3 per person for daily passes and $25 per person for an annual pass. This is the only new fee across the four national forests, the Forest Service says.
* Panther Top Shooting Range daily fees would increase from $2 to $3 per person. Annual fee would remain $25 per person.
If approved, the increased fees would be implemented over a two-year span.
The Forest Service will accept comments through February, at [email protected].
Campsite fees at Cedar Point Campground in the Croatan National Forest, below, are to increase from $12 to $20 per night for single campsites. Charges for electricity will increase as well, according to the proposal. Click on the photo for more information about Cedar Point.
North Carolina will ring in the New Year with guided hikes at "every" state park and state recreation area on January 1.
It's the second year North Carolina’s state parks system will partner with America’s State Parks and the National Association of State Park Directors to promote First Day Hikes, a news release says.
There will be at least 40 guided hikes in North Carolina's state parks system and more than 600 throughout the 50 states as part of the event.
At Eno River State Park in Durham, New Year's Day hikes are a decades-old tradition. The Eno River Association will offer a 5- to 6-mile hike as well as a shorter, approximately 3-mile route in the Fews Ford Area (at right; click on the photo for more information) starting at 2 p.m. Tuesday. Hot chocolate, marshmallows and popcorn will be served around the fire at the end of the hike.
At Falls Lake State Recreation Area in Raleigh, a scavenger hunt designed for ages 6-12 but open to all will be part of a kid-friendly hike for up to 25 kids in the Shinleaf area starting at 10 a.m. Reservations are required (919-676-1027), and an adult needs to accompany anyone younger than 18.
The program at Jockey's Ridge State Park in Nags Head will be a 45-minute leisurely walk along the Soundside Nature Trail for a discussion of the interesting habitats of barrier islands. The group meets at 9 a.m.
Check to see what other N.C. state parks and recreation areas are doing on New Year's Day by clicking through at their names to the state site, then on "Events/Free Programs." Enter a search for January 2013.
As of this writing, Mount Mitchell State Park in Burnsville is closed because of freezing weather and has no activity listed for January 1, so be sure to check the site of the park you plan to visit before going.
"We look forward to the stocking of fish in the spring, so visitors can again enjoy this majestic water," Mike Wilkins, a ranger in the Nantahala District of the Nantahala National Forest, said in a news release.
The recreation area's season runs from April 1 to October 31.
Balsam Lake, right, is normally stocked with rainbow trout twice during the spring/summer season, and a creek supplies native mountain trout.
The lake has several accessible fishing piers and allows bank and small boat fishing. The recreation area also has a picnic shelter and toilets, and short easy trails.
Groups of up to 20 people can rent the fully equipped Balsam Lake Lodge, seen from across the lake below, for $170 to $200 a night.
Splash boards on the eight-acre lake's dam allowed too much water to pass around them, so a slight adjustment was made to help maintain proper lake levels, the news release says.
The highlight of the day's events should come about 10:35 a.m. when flyers from US Marine Corps (USMC) Air Station Cherry Point stage a flyover to mark the 100th anniversary of Marine Corps aviation. They will be followed by U.S. Coast Guard and civilian aircraft.
Monday's events begin at 8:45 a.m. with a patriotic musical prelude by the Northeastern High School Band from Elizabeth City, which is followed by a ceremony that includes remarks by Charles F. Bolden, Jr., NASA Administrator & Major General USMC (Ret); and Dr. Tom Crouch, Senior Curator of the Division of Aeronautics at the Smithsonian Institution.
There will also be a wreath-laying ceremony at 11 a.m. on the exact spot where the first flight occurred.
The park's usual $4 entrance fee will be waived during the anniversary event.
The park's visitor center and pavilion will open at 9 a.m., and the grounds will be open as well, including the 60-foot-tall granite memorial atop Kill Devil Hill and the Stephen H. Smith sculpture depicting the first flight, below.
Fans of "The Hunger Games" have turned out to help create a banner attendance year at DuPont State Recreational Forest, where much of the hit movie was filmed, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times.
Forest Supervisor David Brown told the newspaper that visitation through the end of October had hit 327,000, topping last year's full count of 250,000 for an all-time high.
Brown said increased interest in the forest can also be attributed to it being named one of the top five state forest/parks in the nation by Outside Magazine, an 18-page photo essay on the forest in Our State Magazine last March (when "The Hunger Games" was released), and a Bike Magazine feature about the forest as a mountain biking destination.
Tammy Hopkins, co-owner of the Hunger Games Fan Tours in Brevard, said her firm has escorted 700 fans from 41 states through the forest.
Scenes at DuPont were shot at Triple Falls, below, and Bridal Veil Falls in the forest's High Falls Access area, and elsewhere among DuPont's more than 10,000 acres.
Brown also told the newspaper that an ongoing survey of people as they leave DuPont has found that 40 percent of visitors came to the forest to hike; 25 percent came to see the waterfalls; 19 percent to mountain bike; and 7 percent to swim (during the summer). Most visitors (81 percent) rated their trail experience as excellent, with 15 percent rating it as very good.
Dealing with the increased attendance and popularity of the forest has been a challenge as the state has cut funds and staff, Brown said.
We wrote last month about Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge birding tours and open house this weekend, and Tuesday the Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge announced one of its "Open Roads Days" this weekend.
The irregular open roads events allow the public to drive roads normally closed to vehicular traffic around impoundments at the end of Mackay Island Road. This month, particularly, the open roads will allow visitors to observe and photograph the abundant waterfowl, including tundra swans, ducks and large concentrations of snow geese, that frequent the refuge this time of year.
Mackay Island is in the extreme northeast corner of the state. The open roads areas are located 1 and 6.2 miles south of the North Carolina state line on N.C. 615 in Knotts Island. They are marked by large brown signs.
The additional touring areas will be open from sunrise to sunset Saturday and Sunday.
The Refuge visitor center will be open 10 a.m. to sunset Saturday.
Mackay Island also offers a Charles Kuralt Trail observation site, an elevated platform with spotting scopes for views of the Great Marsh, and seven miles of dikes suitable for walking or cycling.
The state Division of Parks and Recreation said Saturday the summit overlook and picnic area, the road to the summit area and the campground are open, as are the Jomeokee, Sassafras and Grassy Ridge trails. (Camping closes for the season Friday.)
The park’s Yadkin River section and Corridor Trail were not closed because of the fire and remain open.
The park’s climbing area, the principal overlook at Little Pinnacle, and the Grindstone, Ledge Springs and Mountain trails remain closed as workers continue "mopping up" after the fire, which began near the summit November 8. Firefighters did not fully contain the fire until November 14, according to WXII in Winston-Salem.
The fire began as a prescribed burn but grew out of control when embers blew from a dead tree into steep terrain, a parks news release says. Damaged trees near the mountain’s summit are being removed as park staff and state Forest Service personnel monitor the burned area for flare-ups.
Meanwhile, Winston-Salem Journal columnist Scott Sexton suggests that the routes cut by bulldozers to battle the blaze could eventually be strung together to create a biking trail to add to about 40 miles of hiking and bridle trails at the park now.
"(T)here were lines cleared out for dozers to fight the fire. It’s not a neat little circle, but it could be pieced together," state parks spokesman Charlie Peek told Sexton. "Any way to make use of them.”
If you want to keep up as plans are made for managing the Nantahala and Pisgah national forests over the next 15 years, now is the time to let the Forest Service know.
The Forest Service will revise the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests Land and Resource Management Plan over the next three to four years, according to a news release.
The Nantahala and Pisgah encompass more than 1 million acres in western North Carolina. They provide a variety of public recreation sites, including dozens of day use areas, campgrounds and hiking opportunities (scroll down at each link for Pisgah sites). Together, they are among the most visited national forests in the nation, the Forest Service says.
The management plan revision process begins with the Assessment Phase, about a year's worth of collecting and compiling data about the two forests. Next comes the two-to-three-year Planning Phase, which is followed by the Monitoring Phase, which lasts until the next plan revision.
Rules for developing these management plans were revised this year to strengthen the role of public involvement and dialogue throughout the planning process, the news release says. An explanation of the process online says the Assessment Phase is to include "numerous public meetings ... to receive input from stakeholders" beginning in February.
The Forest Service is to provide details about public meetings and "other information to foster public participation" over the next few months. To receive email updates, visit www.fs.usda.gov/nfsnc and click on "To receive News and Alerts by Email," then select Nantahala or Pisgah National Forest.
The Forest Service published the original management plan for the Nantahala and Pisgah forests in 1987. A significant amendment to the plan was published in 1994, and smaller amendments occurred in subsequent years.
Each national forest and grassland is governed by a management plan in accordance with the National Forest Management Act. These plans set management, protection and use goals and guidelines.
The 2012 Planning Rule revision guides the planning process. It includes stronger protections for forests, water and wildlife "while supporting the economic vitality of rural communities," according to the news release. It also requires the use of the best available scientific information to inform decisions.
A Forest Service map shows the 18 counties of western North Carolina affected by plans for management of the Nantahala and Pisgah national forests.
The Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge will show off its new visitors center and the incredible birding opportunities around the 40,000-acre Lake Mattamuskeet on December 8 with an open house and guided tours.
Hundreds of thousands of migratory birds, including a wide variety of ducks, geese and swans (including Tundra swan, below), stop at Lake Mattamuskeet and surrounding areas on their winter migration every year.
Refuge staff have offered one-hour open-air tram rides to view waterfowl on the east side of the refuge since 1984. We went on one last year.
A news release from the refuge says new natural resource exhibits and dioramas at the visitors center explain the history of Lake Mattamuskeet and showcase many of the plants and animals that live on the refuge. They include a "virtual airboat tour" of the lake, and "interactive learning displays for kids of all ages."
The tram tours will run at 7:30, 9 and 10:30 a.m., and 12:30 p.m. on the 8th, a Saturday. The tours are free but, since space is limited, registration is required. Non-registered visitors may be turned away if space is not available.
Reservations will be available by calling the refuge office at 252-926-4021 beginning Tuesday, November 20. Office hours are 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.
"To give everyone a fair chance to reserve a space on the tram, we will not accommodate large groups or organizations during this event," the news release says. "Because there are a limited number of seats available on the tram, it is important to call early."
As the release advises, and we will attest to, it will be cold during the tour. Dress appropriately if you go.
If you're not interested in the tour, there is also an interpretive bird walk on the trails and boardwalks near the visitors center where you can view waterfowl and migratory song birds along the edge of the lake. There are also several other viewing platforms around the lake.
Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge is in Hyde County about 70 miles east of Washington (in Beaufort County) along U.S. 264. It's about a three-hour drive from Raleigh.
The open-air tram below was used for tours of the eastern edge of Lake Mattamuskeet last December. The tours will be offered again December 8. Click on the photo for more information and several more photos from the tour and Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge.