Sunday, April 12, 2015

Wild Rocky Fork

Lots of activity out at Rocky Fork as it is being transformed into a state park. As you enter the park, you'll see many survey stakes and orange flagging tape lining the entrance road indicating changes are afoot. While final plans for Tennessee's newest state park are still being worked out, access improvements are underway. Here is a recent Johnson City Press article on the upcoming 'First Annual Hikers’ Jamboree' on May 2nd. At the end of the article is a rendering of the proposed entry way to Rocky Fork. See the park's Facebook page for more information.

I'm certainly glad the property wasn't developed into a gated residential community or some other private development -- which was feared when the timber company owning the 10,000 acre parcel placed it up for sale. Eventually the Conservation Fund and the Federal Government stepped in. Still I do wonder how Rocky Fork will change going forward. According to the Conservation Fund, "preliminary plans include an access road, ranger station, primitive campground, picnic areas and trails, in addition to interpretive efforts to share the historic Revolutionary War-era battles site." The JCP article referenced above says the new park will allow for "hiking, biking, running, walking, horseback riding and possibly two-wheeled motorized recreational vehicles." That sounds good, but put me down as a 'no' vote against the use of any two or four wheel motorized recreational vehicles. I already had my run-in with an atv out there.

While I have every hope that the new park will be thoughtfully designed with efforts taken to keep Rocky Fork as wild and pristine as possible, I did think, as I was walking along, it will never be as wild as it is today.

Directions: Take the Flag Pond exit off of I-26 (exit #50), at the stop sign turn left onto Upper Higgins Creek Road. Drive ½ mile, till you reach Rt. 23, turn right and travel 2 ¼ mi. through Flag Pond, then turn left on Rocky Fork Road. Enjoy the views of the tumbling creek. After ¾ mile, you will see a gravel pull-off to the left. Park here (out of the way of the gate) to continue exploring the 10,000 acre Rocky Fork on foot. Trail map here.

1 comment:

  1. As an upper East Tennessee native and avid hiker, I don't believe developing new "infrastructure" in Rocky Fork is an improvement. Trail maintenance and even the opening of a few new trails would be understandable, but any use of the words "infrastructure" or "development" usually spells disaster for those of us who like our state and national parks to be as undeveloped and wild as possible. The thought of widening the roads, building a visitors center and gift shop, putting in five or six bathroom facilities, and carving out a massive chunk of pristine land for a modern campground makes my stomach turn. What's wrong with the current minimal infrastructure? Why do we need a visitor's center and gift shop selling tat? Why do we need anything other than a handful of dispersed camp sights? Oh well, at least we'll get to enjoy it for a bit longer.


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