Photo provided by Peter McIntosh
The only way to gain permanent protection for a special area of our national forests is through an act of congress. Citizens of Gilmer County are mounting a grassroots push to permanently protect the Mountaintown area of their county, Georgia’s largest tract of roadless public forest. ForestWatch is also calling on the Forest Service to take responsible action to protect the sensitive Mountaintown Creek from inappropriate abuse by mountain bikers on what is an illegally created bike trail.
Update on the Mountaintown Initiative
Local citizens work to safeguard Georgia’s largest roadless area
Local citizens can make a difference when it comes to protecting nearby special areas of public forests. That is the hope of Friends of Mountaintown, who since 2004 have created local support for protecting an area of national forest near Ellijay, Georgia. Disappointed that it was not suggested for greater protection by the Forest Service in the last forest management plan, local citizens took matters into their own hands with petition drives, barbeque lunches and neighbor-to-neighbor discussions. Their goal was to convince their U.S. Representative to sponsor a bill to protect their beloved forest. Congressman Nathan Deal heard his constituency and worked with them and the Forest Service to craft legislation to protect the 13,000-acre area as a National Scenic Area. The bill is presently wading through the House of Representatives’ Resource and Agriculture committees.
Mountain Bikes in Mountaintown
In the early 1990s, a mountain bike trail was illegally created on an old logging road running the length of Mountaintown Creek. The public was not afforded the opportunity to comment on this proposal as required by law. Georgia ForestWatch has opposed this trail for over a decade. Here’s why: 1) It’s too steep and prone to erosion, with slopes exceeding 30%; 2) It crosses a blue ribbon trout stream 14 times, compounding the amount of silt already flowing off the eroding trail; and 3) It presents a real danger to pedestrians.
We support biking and count many bikers as members and friends. In fact, we have never opposed any of the dozens of legal mountain bike trails established across Georgia’s national forests.
The Forest Service is now proposing to expand the Mountaintown Creek trail and we are pushing hard against it. Click the play button in the video below to see what mountain biking on this trail actually looks like. In portions of this video, you can see the erosion problem on the trail, as well as the repeated riding through the creek.
U.S. Forest Service Draft Environmental Assessment
ForestWatch Mountaintown Trail Access Draft EA Comments (submitted August 23, 2010)