The Lyndhurst Foundation of Chattanooga recently announced the awarding of a $25,000 grant to the Friends of South Cumberland (FSC) to assist in the Fiery Gizzard Trail re-route that began in August. Although the park originally said the trail would close to through hikers on December 1, the ranger-led volunteer effort has been so successful that Interim Park Manager George Shinn announced that the trail will be passable by that date. “We are so glad not to have to post any ‘Trail Closed’ signs as we had feared.” The reroute was necessitated when a private owner withdrew permission for the trail to continue to cross his land.
“We are very thankful to the Lyndhurst Foundation for recognizing the high value of the Fiery Gizzard Trail and to the Friends for making this grant happen, “ said Shinn. “We are also pleased that the rerouted trail is far enough along that we will be able to keep it open for through hikers. The $25,000 will help us finish the rugged 25 percent of trail remaining and provide materials to build the first bridge. The progress made this fall has been phenomenal and the volunteer support amazing, so we feel sure we will continue to find funds and workers going forward.” Fiery Gizzard Trail is ranked as one of the top 25 hiking trails in the U.S. and is credited with enhancing tourism and the local economy in one of Tennessee’s most rural areas.
“The interest of the Lyndhurst Foundation shows the importance of South Cumberland State Park in the region,” said Latham Davis, FSC president. “Lyndhurst is always alert to key environmental and conservation issues and the importance of outdoor recreation.” Davis also expressed thanks to the scores of volunteers who have been working on the trail and to the park rangers, in particular Ranger Jason Reynolds, the leader of the trail rerouting project. “This is rough work in steep, rugged terrain,” Davis said. “The trail remains open because of those people and because of the support of the Lyndhurst Foundation and our members.”
Ranger Shinn also thanked Sequatchie Valley Electric for donating telephone poles to be used in the Fiery Gizzard bridges. Shinn said, “Our trails and park affect our community and our community affects our park. This is the kind of partnership I have dreamed of having … with local businesses and leaders supporting the park efforts.”
The $25,000 grant monies are designated for materials needed in the construction of the trail, notably stone for steps and lumber for bridge that will span Fiery Gizzard Creek. Ranger Jason Reynolds, who has worked on the trail section almost daily since August, reported that the re-route around Raven Point Farm is 75 percent complete, though he stresses that the trail is rough in some places. The Foster Falls to Fiery Gizzard (or vice versa) 12.5-mile hike will remain open with new signage to direct hikers along the re-routed portion of the trail. According to Ranger Jason, the bridge has not yet been built so the trail may close in spring when the creek is too high to wade across.