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Forest Service plans to assess trail conditions in the Jake and Bull Mountain area

POSTED: April 17, 2008 5:00 a.m.

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The U.S. Forest Service is seeking public input on the future of a popular trail system near Dahlonega.

There aren’t many places in the Chattahoochee National Forest that are open to mountain bikers and equestrians, so those two user groups tend to be heavily concentrated in the Jake and Bull Mountain area, which has about 35 miles of recreational trails.

"It’s a multiuse trail (system), so inherently you’re going to have some conflicts," said Alison Koopman, recreation supervisor for the forest’s Blue Ridge district. "We’re seeing a tremendous increase in the number of special-event permits being applied for."

The trails are not closed off to other users when one group has an event, such as a race. This sometimes leads to undesirable encounters between horses and bicycles.

Both groups have repeatedly asked the Forest Service for more trails designated for their chosen activity.

But Koopman said right now the agency is not looking at adding new areas.

The goal is just to improve what’s already there.

An open house to gather public input is scheduled for 6 p.m. April 17 at the Lumpkin County Community Center.

The meeting coincides with an inventory and assessment of the entire trail system, set to begin next week.

"It’s a combined effort of the Forest Service, a contractor and volunteers," said Koopman.

Every mile of trail will be scrutinized to see if it needs maintenance work or even something more drastic, such as relocation.

"There are definitely some maintenance issues we’d like to see taken care of," said Keith McFadden, a volunteer trails consultant with the Southern Off-Road Bicycling Association, one of the groups that will help conduct the inventory.

He said it’s almost impossible to keep some parts of the trail from eroding because they were built on unsuitable terrain.

"That might mean closing some trails that are not sustainable," he said. "We would also like to see the system expanded and improved on, with better design and flow."

McFadden said many people have expressed a desire for more loop trails, instead of having to go a long distance out and back on the same route.

Aside from the actual trails, Koopman said they’ll be assessing other aspects of the area, such as parking.

"There has been concern that the Jake Mountain parking is not adequate," she said. "Bull Mountain has adequate parking, but the approach road is not easy to use."

McFadden said equestrians need extra parking space because they have to be able to turn their horse trailers around.

"They have infrastructure needs that we (mountain bikers) don’t have," he said. "It would be nice to have separate but adjacent lots for the two user groups."



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