Locust Stake Closure - Update

by Bruce Dreher (GARTRA Secretary)
If by chance you are a Locust Stake fan and have had the opportunity to visit the park this Spring, you found it to be closed.  More than likely you may have heard rumors that the park is closed indefinitely.
Let me dispel the rumors and bring you up to date.  Last Fall some USFS representatives from the Gainesville office had the opportunity to visit Locust Stake, and view the trails there.  They were astonished at the condition of some sections of trail.  Most notably is the long uphill climb on trail 148G up to 148F on the South end.  This section of trail is very steep and is very hard to maintain.  Over the years, erosion has cut the trail to as much as 15 or more feet deep into the hill.   Second to that section is the other end of 148G which descends from 148F on the North end.  About 10 years ago this section was in horrific condition, as it was also a straight up climb. At that time it was re-routed to what it is now (a few switch-backs included), which is better than is was, but still difficult to maintain.

 

At the Winter closure, GARTRA became aware of the issues at Locust Stake and the planned extended closure.  Since that time I have been in touch with USFS Rangers Alan Polk and John Campbell at the Gainesville office, and Janice Miller at the Chattooga River District Office, who directly oversees the Locust Stake ATV Park.  The FS folks have a plan.  First they will perform a thorough assessment of the trails, review the assessment, look at their options, apply for funding, and then get the work done.

 

Back in February, the FS had already begun the bidding process for the assessment.  This is where they notify interested third party contractors of the work to be done and request participation in a bidding process.  In early March the FS met with interested contractors to go over the details of assessment requirements.  This is so the contractors may know the details of the work they will be bidding on.  Since that time the contractors have been preparing their bids, and are expected to submit their bids by the end-of-April/first-of-May time frame.  I expect it will then take another two weeks or so for the FS to review the bids and select a contractor.  This puts us mid to late May.  Once a contractor is selected, the contractor will have approximately 30 days to complete the assessment and make recommendations (maybe end of June).  Once the assessment is complete, the FS will review the assessment and the recommendations.  It will be at this time that GARTRA and other interested parties will have the opportunity to review this same information and make public comments.  I'm not sure what the time period will be, but I would make a guess of about 30 to 60 days.  The bottom line is the FS will create a work plan to make changes at Locust Stake so the park may be re-opened.  Once they have a plan, they will estimate the cost of the work to be done, and then write an RTP Grant proposal to be submitted to the GA Department of Natural Resources, DNR, (who oversees the RTP Grant program) for money to fund the proposed work.  This Grant proposal has to be submitted by late September/early October time frame.  The GA-DNR will review the Grant proposal, and if approved (I have no reason to expect that it wouldn't), the FS will be notified of the approval in February of 2013.  Once the funding is approved, then the FS will request bids from interested contractors to do the actual work.  This will be much the same as the assessment bidding process described above.  My gut feel for the overall project is that when all is said and done, the work at Locust Stake could be completed as early as late Spring, early Summer of 2013.

 

In my discussions with the USFS folks, these are the things that you may expect at Locust Stake.  The long uphill section on the South end of 148G, WILL BE CLOSED.  There may be a re-route for that section.  The North end of 148G will be evaluated and may be re-groomed, hardened, and/or re-routed.  There may be other sections that will require serious work as well.  Also in our discussions, the FS suggested adding some new sections of trail (tbd).  In addition we discussed the possibility of closing the South end of 148G mid Summer of 2012 and reopening the park for the remainder of the 2012 season.  This idea is still on the table, and can be discussed further once the assessment is complete.  At no time was there ever talk of closing the park indefinitely.  The attitude of the FS folk that I've talked with seems to be:
  1. See where we are
  2. Make a plan to fix it
  3. Then git'er done.
I will be in touch with the FS folks to keep you updated of their plans and progress.  If you want to make your inquiries, feel free to contact Janice Miller at:

Chattooga River Ranger District
9975 Hwy 441 S.
Lakemont, GA 30552
706-754-6221