The Moss Knob Shooting Range near Franklin will remain closed until next spring as work to renovate it continues, forest officials said Monday.
Renovations were to be done in the fall, according to a Forest Service news release, but were originally announced last summer. "However, logistical challenges with the project have delayed reopening of the range," the release says.
Work at the Nantahala National Forest site is to include building a new access road to the shooting range from behind the shooting line, constructing a new earthen backstop for each shooting line, drainage work, and filling and leveling along the firing line.
Moss Knob has four firing lanes or stations on a 150-yard range with frame targets set at 25 and 50 yards.
Now that repairs to the dam at Balsam Lake Recreation Area have been completed and the lake refilled, the National Forest Service advises that visitors have the rest of November to rent the lodge at the Nantahala National Forest retreat.
The lake had been drained last spring and through the summer after a leak in the dam was noticed and heavy summer rains prohibited work. Today, the Forest Service said in a news release that the dam has been fixed and the lake has filled with water. They'll stock it with fish next spring.
The lodge offers 16 twin beds with linens, a kitchen with utensils and three bathrooms. All facilities are fully accessible. Rental costs $170 per night Sunday through Thursday, and $200 per night Friday and Saturday. There's a minimum stay of two nights on weekends (Friday and Saturday), and a maximum of 14 days.
The lodge closes for the season after November 30.
The 8-acre Balsam Lake, which will remain open to others beside lodge renters, has accessible fishing piers, a half-mile hiking trail, picnic shelter and vault toilet.
The leak was caused by a broken board at the bottom of the dam, the Forest Service said. Even though the board was less than a year old, it either had a hidden defect, which caused the failure, or absorbed too much moisture then expanded too much and cracked. About 30 boards had to be removed to get to the failed board.
Previous repairs to the dam were completed after the 2012 season ended, eleven months ago.
The U.S. Forest Service is adding material to the backstops for the pistol range and the 25-yard line, a news release says.
It will close November 4 and reopen when work is completed or by November 8, whichever comes first.
Earlier this year, the Forest Service added earthen back stops behind the 7-yard line and the 50-yard line at Dirty John. Forest Service personnel also improved drainage on the shooting range.
The end to the federal government shutdown means federal outdoor recreation lands are reopening.
Meanwhile the four national forests in North Carolina can't make such a blanket statement.
A National Forest Service news release (that hasn't made it to their website yet) says facilities in the Croatan National Forest will reopen by noon Friday, October 18.
In the Nantahala National Forest, all day use sites and campgrounds are currently open except for Cliffside Lake and Van Hook Glade Campground, and Moss Knob Shooting Range, which is closed due to construction.
In the Pisgah National Forest, all day use sites and campgrounds in the Pisgah and Grandfather Ranger Districts were to be open today, except for Sunburst Campground, which will reopen with limited services as soon as possible. The Forest Service says it "continues to open recreation facilities on the Appalachian Ranger District as possible."
Other federal outdoor recreation agencies are less punctual with news releases than the National Park and Forest services. Check with individual parks and campgrounds for the status of North Carolina's:
* Edenton National Fish Hatchery, which offers a raised-boardwalk nature trail through wetlands.
* Four TVA Reservoirs in the far southwest mountains.
Many federal outdoor recreation sites in the mountains close for the season at the end of October or early November. Be sure to check our website and theirs.
Officials with various federal outdoor recreation agencies are spending today telling people that many of their sites are closed because of the federal government shutdown.
However, among the National Forests in North Carolina, several campgrounds in the Nantahala and Pisgah national forests will remain open because they are operated by private concessionaires, a news release advises.
In the Nantahala National Forest, they are: Black Mountain Campground, Briar Bottom Group Camp, Carolina Hemlocks Recreation, Cove Creek Campground, Davidson River Campground, Kimsey Creek Group Campground, Kuykendall Group Campground, Lake Powhatan Recreation Area, North Mills River Recreation Area, Sunburst Recreation Area and White Pines Group Campground.
In the Pisgah National Forest, they are: Cliffside Day Use Area, Van Hook Glade Campground and the Standing Indian / Kimsey Creek / Hurricane Creek Recreation Complex.
Visitors may still use undeveloped recreational areas in the national forests, the news release says. But, no restrooms or trash collection are available. Only essential Forest Service employees will continue working; volunteers are not active.
The Forest Service is canceling Forest Festival Day scheduled for Saturday, October 5, at the Cradle of Forestry in Pisgah Forest and the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forest management plan revision workshop scheduled for October 5 at the N.C. Arboretum in Asheville.
"Because of the federal government shutdown, all national parks are closed [including nine in North Carolina] and National Park Service webpages are not operating. For more information, go to www.doi.gov," is the sole message available at the National Park Service website this afternoon, referring people to the Department of the Interior.
Pages for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoirs in North Carolina go to a page that says: "Because of the federal government shutdown, all Corps lakes are closed and Corps Lakes webpages are not operating. For more information, go to http://www.usace.army.mil."
The federal government shut down at midnight September 30, the end of the fiscal year, after Congress failed to pass a budget or temporary funding legislation. All non-essential services have ceased, and hundreds of thousands of government workers have been furloughed without knowing when they will return to work.
Republicans want to strip funding from the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) as part of a funding bill, and Democrats in the Senate have blocked them from doing so.
Work includes building a new access road from behind the shooting line and constructing a new earthen backstop for each shooting line, as well as filling and leveling along the firing line, a news release says.
Moss Knob has four firing lanes or stations on a 150-yard range with frame targets set at 25 and 50 yards.
Moss Knob "is projected to reopen by the end of September, weather permitting," the release says.
The Nantahala, Pisgah, Uwharrie and Croatan National Forests and partners are hosting Kids' Fishing Days as part of National Fishing and Boating week, June 1 to 9.
Two sites in the Pisgah National Forest will hold events May 10 and 31.
No experience is needed for families to participate. Adults must accompany all children.
Events are scheduled for:
* Cedar Swamp Pond, just south of Newport off of Hibbs Road – June 8, 8 a.m. (catch hybrid sunfish or catfish)
* Boone Fork Pond, near Lenoir. Two events, one for the handicapped on May 10, 10 a.m. (register with the Grandfather Ranger District office at (828) 652-2144) and a second May 11, starting at 9 a.m.
* Lake Powhatan, near Asheville. Two events, one for special needs children on May 31 at 10 a.m., and a second June 1 at 9 a.m.
* Carolina Hemlocks, near Burnsville – June 1, 9 a.m. (Registration begins at 8 a.m.)
* Max Patch, near Hot Springs – June 8, 9 a.m. (Registration begins at 8 a.m.)
* King’s Mountain Point, on Badin Lake near Troy – June 8, 9 a.m. (catch hybrid sunfish or catfish).
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.
Among national parks in North Carolina, only the Wright Brothers National Memorial at Kitty Hawk charges an entrance fee. But, if you visit on November 11 you'll save $4 for every member of your party who is 16 years old or older.
There are similarly small fees at several day use areas in the three national forests in North Carolina. For instance, if you are in the Highlands/Cashiers area this Sunday you can save $2 each on visits to Whitewater Falls and Whiteside Mountain.
Since April, work at the site has "stabilized the trail, reconstructed and replaced the entire walking path, and removed tripping hazards," a news release says.
Dry Falls consists of a 1/2-mile trail that allows visitors to walk behind the 80-foot waterfall, an overlook, restrooms, picnic tables and paved parking. It is alongside U.S. 64/N.C. 28 in the Cullasaja Gorge.
"The improvements cost $466,000 and "enhance the visual appeal of the trail and make it easier to maintain," the news release says.
Money for the project came from a Federal Highways Grant of $208,000 and matching agency funds of $258,000, according to a previous news release.
Other recent notices from the National Forest Service:
* Duke Energy will increase water flows on the Upper Nantahala River from Nantahala Lake to the power house on September 29 and 30 to provide kayakers and other boaters with enhanced whitewater recreational experiences in the Nantahala River Gorge.
This will result in Class IV water conditions in the Cascades Section and less-than optimal flows downstream to the power plant on the 29th, and Class IV+ water conditions on the Cascades Section and Class III-IV downstream on the 30th. The main Nantahala River will also see higher than normal flows.
"Only skilled boaters should attempt to paddle on the Nantahala River on September 29 to 30," the news release says. "Fishermen are advised to avoid this region of the Nantahala River until water levels decline."
* The Appalachian Trail's Cold Springs Shelter, located 1.3 miles north of Burningtown Gap, is closed for repairs through December 15. Hikers can still use the shelter’s toilet and drinkable water while the work is conducted.