The nation’s largest, single-day volunteer effort for public lands was held last weekend, and the efforts of many centered on the Fiery Gizzard Trail re-route in South Cumberland State Park. After the threat to the Fiery Gizzard Trail made the evening news in Nashville and the front page of the Chattanooga Times, hundreds of people have responded, said Ranger Jason Reynolds. “We have been inundated by calls and emails from groups who want to help.”
REI of Nashville selected the Fiery Gizzard Trail as their NPLD volunteer project, partnering with the Friends of South Cumberland to recruit workers. REI volunteers joined Boy Scouts, members of Tennessee Trails, students and faculty from Highland Academy in Portland, TN, and others who braved the trail work in the steep, rocky terrain in support of National Public Lands Day.
Ken Tucker of Tennessee’s Wild Side TV altered his schedule to come to Grundy County and film a piece on the trail issue. The story will begin airing across the state on PBS in early October.
Reynolds noted that in coming weeks he has scheduled Boy Scout troops, a group from Ga. Tech, Sewanee students, an organization from Chattanooga that specializes in rockwork on trails, and many from hiking Meet Ups in the tri-state region. The volunteer efforts will continue every Sat. and Sunday through December, with workers meeting at the Grundy Forest Parking Lot at 9 a.m.
In mid-August, the rangers learned that a private landowner has withdrawn permission to cross his land, which will block one section of the popular 12.5-mile trail effective December 1. The linear trail, heralded by Backpacker Magazine as sixth in the nation on the list of Best Fall Foliage Hikes, is clearly one loved by many.
“We have never seen a response like this,” said Reynolds, who is coordinating the new trail. “The only way to save this trail is to reroute a section down into the cove, skirting the privately owned property.”