As South Cumberland park rangers and Friends celebrated the early completion of a major bridge on the Fiery Gizzard Trail reroute, Interim Manager George Shinn disclosed that a second private landowner has requested that the park trail be removed from his land by December 1, necessitating an additional mile of new trail.
“We are proud to partner with the park in this effort, and we know our volunteers will rally to build the additional mile of trail,” said Latham Davis, president of the Friends of South Cumberland. Rangers report that over 3,000 volunteer hours have been logged on the Fiery Gizzard project since August. The FSC received grant money from the Lyndhurst Foundation and Tennessee Trails Association, providing materials and tools so that the reroute moved forward swiftly.
Shinn announced last week that a 28-foot pole bridge —one of the most challenging facets of the reroute— is complete months ahead of schedule. When it was announced in late summer that the famed Fiery Gizzard Trail would have to be re-routed to skirt private land, plans called for the bridge spanning McAlloyd Branch to be constructed after the spring rains subsided. Thanks to the incredible community support, the timeline was moved up by months, assuring that the trail will remain open this spring even during high water. Additional improvements to this section of trail continue, including building a challenging 30-step rock staircase.
Shinn said that a second private landowner, whose property adjoins the old Baggenstoss Farm, decided to follow the lead of his neighbor and requested that the trail be removed from his land by December 1, 2016. “We plan to have it completed way before that deadline,” said Shinn. “Our goal is to finish by Labor Day. We need as many volunteers as possible to make this a reality.” Rangers are currently leading volunteer groups every Saturday, and from Memorial Day to Labor Day the work will continue every day.
According to Shinn, “Rangers Jason Reynolds and Park Greer are doing an outstanding job. Since August they have led a volunteer crew every Saturday and often during the week as well. Despite this unusually wet winter, they made great progress.” He noted that the funds from Lyndhurst paid for materials to create the bridge, rock for trails and for the to-be-built rock staircase. Telephone poles donated by Sequachee Electric serve as the bridge foundation. TTA provided funds for a hoist system used to move the heavy rock and lumber down into the gorge. Shinn said, “The Friends of South Cumberland facilitated the receipt of the grants and have been invaluable in spreading the word to the public and the press. We are thankful to have these great partnerships.”
The focus now shifts to the final mile of trail building. “Given the success of this first big step,” said Shinn, “we are confident we will find the funds and volunteers for the remaining section. With help from our Friends, we can do it!” For volunteer information, contact Jason.Reynolds@tn.gov. or join the FSC Meet Up, www.meetup.com/Friends-of-South-Cumberland-State-Park. Anyone interested in donating to the Fiery Gizzard Project fund may go to the FSC website. A video of the trail progress can be seen on the FSC Facebook page.