The National Park Service is soliciting public comment on an Environmental Assessment/Assessment of Effect for a Rock Outcrop Management Plan that incorporates hiking, camping and climbing. This Environmental Assessment/Assessment of Effect is being reissued since it was made available for public review in 2008.
Some of the proposals in the document include the relocation of the Appalachian Trail on Little Stony Man Mountain, as well as barring access to the main and western summit of Old Rag. It would also close Hawksbill and North Marshall Mountain to camping, prohibit rock and ice climbing on Hawksbill, and permanently close the Bettys Rock Trail.
Intense use of these areas by climbing, hiking, and camping enthusiasts has led to loss of vegetation and soils at some cliff sites, including impacts to rare species and communities. This management plan would provide the direction to guide management decisions, protect geologic and biological composition, and minimize visitor use impacts. Given that Park management personnel are mandated to protect rock outcrops while still providing opportunities for visitor enjoyment of these resources, this plan would mitigate impacts of visitor recreation activities, accommodate visitor use, and direct the future management of rock outcrops.
The public is invited to comment on the reissued plan. The document will be available for public review for 30 days. During this time, the National Park Service will accept written and oral comments regarding the project through December 13th (it will probably take most people that long to get through the bloated 207-page document). For more information, please click here.
To me, this seems to be a fairly radical plan. Maybe these areas actually need extra protections, but I feel a little uncomfortable permanently closing them to the public. Afterall, we do own them....