Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Roaring Fork Road Project Environmental Assessment in the GSM National Park

Less than a month is left for the public to comment on the Great Smoky Mountain National Park Environmental Assessment of the proposed Roaring Fork Road Project. If green lighted the project would begin sometime between 2009 - 2010 and may cause some closures of this popular motor trail in the national Park.

The Roaring Fork area of the Smoky Mountain National Park borders Gatlinburg Tennessee and is not accessible with any other roads from within the national park but contains key trailheads including one of the better trails going to the peak of Mt Le Conte. There are also trailhead to 2 popular wonderful waterfalls - rainbow falls and Grotto falls and a collection of beautiful historic buildings.

Ogles Cabin in Roaring Rork

The Roaring Fork Section of the park has a beautiful 9 mile one way drive that is far less traveled that the Cades Cove Loop trail, but goes through a much denser wooded section that Cades Cove which includes some old growth forest, has a spectacular mountain vista view from one of the pull offs, and a fantastic collection of historic cabins and small buildings.

The winding barrow road crosses some small bridges and towards the end of the trail some steep drop offs to the right with a river running alongside the road. In bad weather this road can be quiet hazardous if one is not driving with extreme caution and thus the National Park Service is looking to repair and expand the existing road.

Roaring fork river rocks and stream

The agenda of the Roaring Fork Road Project is:

  • Milling and then repaving of roads
  • Replacing 7 bridges
  • Widening 1 bridge
  • Widening a 1,500 feet of Roaring Fork Motor Nature trail

This project has been estimated at $9.8 million and is fortunately a joint effort between both the National Park Service as well as the Federal Highway Administration. Both organizations are also responsible for the Environmental Assessment.

While the Park service is hoping to facilitate as much of the road improvements to the Motor trail during off-peak months that is possible it is expected that this popular motor trail and some of the adjuring areas in this section of the park may be closed during busier months that would normally receive a high volume of visitors.

According to Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson he commented "The basic character of the road will not be changed. It will remain a narrow, low-speed byway which provides visitors with an intimate forest experience as close to a hike as you can have in your vehicle. Vehicles larger than passenger vans and those pulling trailers will continue to be barred from the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail."

You can obtain printed copies of the Roaring Fork Road Project Environmental Assessment at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Sugarlands Visitors Center or in Gatlinburg TN at the Anna Porter Public Library and clicking here for more information in a PDF version.

The Environmental Assessment outlines the work, the proposed mitigation measures that the Park Service would have to take in order to minimize the impact on the Smoky Mountains Park's natural and cultural resources and you - it visitors.

The EA describes how the various alternative actions including the Smoky Mountains Park's preferred alternative and what each of their potential environmental impacts might be which is in accordance with requirements of the National Environmental Policy.

Any comment you wish to make to the National Park Service in regard to the Roaring Fork Road Project Environmental Assessment must be done so the NPS receives it at or before February 5, 2007. Comments can be made via email or regular mail to:

Great Smoky Mountains National Park,
107 Park Headquarters Road.
Gatlinburg, TN 37738


No comments: