park baker said:
...it seems that our service group is busy building things that no one really cares about in heavily trafficked areas. unfortunately we have to jump through the hoops to get the forest service to notice us, which means we have to go through sorba. i was unable to attend the last meeting, but i plan on bringing this up at the next one.
Any service group has to compare its resources (time, talent, and money) with its challenges, then decide where to apply said time, talent, and money. Usually such decisions are focused on delivering the 'biggest bang for the buck'. With volunteers active at Richmond Hill, Bent Creek, the southern section of the Pisgah District, and DuPont State Forest, SORBA would appear to be addressing things that MANY riders care about. Do I personally care about Richmond Hill?? I'll probably never ride it, but I think the project will produce an important riding venue for Asheville, and I'll show up for work days whenever I can. Likewise, I don't ride Bent Creek much, but I'll try to make some work days there, too, just to support the SORBA's efforts. My recent focus has been DSF and the District, because those are the places I usually ride... How do we decide what to work on there?? Well, how about working on heavily used areas that other groups (or individuals) aren't doing enough work on? If we haven't yet hit the project YOU care about, either be patient, or jump up and initiate that project yourself--perhaps that's just what you're doing here. If so, I wish you the best in your efforts, and encourage you to pick a single project, get some group support from SORBA (even if you hate dealing with the organization), and do your project in a way that encourages the District to invite you to do another one. If you need a sawyer, call me...
There is also a lot of "linear wildlife openings" that could be opened up to bikes without negatively impacting the wildlife. I've hiked plenty on those roads and don't ever notice that there is more wildlife on them than on other similar roads without the designation.
If the roads you're referring to have officially been designated as "Linear Wildlife Openings" (LWOs), there's no way (read: NWIH) they will be re-opened to bikes until another logging operation takes place on top of them. LWOs are a joint venture between the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) and the USFS. NCWRC is involved as 'the owner of the wildlife', and the USFS is involved as 'the landowner and manager'. They began with agreement to close some 30 old logging roads to all but foot traffic and seed them with wildlife cover crops was made between Pisgah District and NCWRC officials 15 Feb '95. That decision was of the 'good old boy network' variety, and the proposal was not run through the USFS' public notification process. The first closure signs were posted Sept/Oct '96, and were discovered by a Blue Ridge Bicycle Club (BRBC) member 6 Oct '96. The first signs he found were on the extension of FS225 and the series of old logging roads that once connected FS225 with FS475B via parts of Siniard Ridge Trail. The closures were quickly contested by the MTB community, and the closure was reversed because the public notification process had not been followed by the USFS...
For a couple years the concept of LWOs remained buried in some bureaucratic file cabinet (or two), and the MTB community rode those old logging traces that made good connectors, but the concept of LWOs came up again when in Feb '98 the NCWRC again wanted to close many old logging roads as LWOs--this time a total of 42 rather than the original 30... The concept was kicked around for a while, then in May '00 the USFS issued a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) listing those 42 LWOs. Several members of the MTB community, working with BRBC and IMBA addressed each LWO's potential as a connector or a good ride in its own right. We also tried to emphasize the idea that food crops could be planted on old logging roads (which are typically 10-12 feet wide) and designate an 18" tread area for shared use--NCWRC would not even consider the concept. The MTB perspective was quickly delivered to the Pisgah District, and again the subject went underground. A couple years later (7 Jan '02) the District issued a "Decision Notice and Finding of No Significant Impact" (DN/FONSI) recommending that 34 of the 42 proposed LWOs be closed to all but foot traffic. Several of us in the MTB community filed official appeals to the DN/FONSI shortly after its release. On 11 May '02, those of us who appealed the DN/FONSI were sent (via certified mail, no less) letters (file code 1570-1) from Robert T Jacobs, Appeal Deciding Officer, Regional Forester, Hotlanta, GfockingA saying he supported the DN/FONSI. So those 34 roads have been duly declared LWOs and have been signed as closed to all but foot traffic. Some additional LWOs have been created via logging projects approved by the District (and having gone through the proper EA process) since Mr Jacob's decision. I don't know the total number of LWOs on the District now, but you can bet your arse that not a single one of them will be open for discussion or review UNTIL another logging operation is proposed on top of it...
A couple of my favorite LWO routes of the late '90s were left open to MTB travel, so for a while I felt like we might have won something through our 5+ year battle. One is the extension of FS225, which allows the cross-country rider to connect the upper reaches of Cove Creek with the top of Daniel Ridge. That once-threatened route is still a pretty nice ride, and I try to hit it every few weeks... The second, the afore-mentioned series of logging roads north of FS225 in the Siniard Ridge area (once known to locals as "Chuck's LWO Loop") was recently logged. I rode it this afternoon, stopping frequently to puke. Once 3 miles of shaded single- track taking the rider past two beautiful waterfalls, only 0.25 miles in the middle remains as single-track--the rest is 10-12' wide gravel road that won't see shade for many years, as the timber on both sides has been stripped... I suspect the two bridges constructed in the making of the lower road segment off-set any money made on the timber sale. So did we win anything???
This response was only intended to give some background on the process that resulted in the LWOs that now exist on the District, but the last bit is almost a rant. Forgive me--that wasn't my intent. I hope forum readers understand that the process through which those logging roads were granted LWO status was not fun for anyone involved, and neither the NCWRC nor the USFS Pisgah District will be willing to review the LWOs just because another mountain biker wants to ride them!