Salmon River/Grayville Forest Management Plan Feedback

Thursday, December 3, 2020

**Immediate Action Needed**

 

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) has provided NEMBA with a draft Forest Management Plan for the Salmon River State Forest that will have significant impact on the future policies for trail access and trail management in Connecticut State Forests. This plan proposes specific action to be taken on the Grayville Trail System, including trail closures. The plan will also serve as a precedent for the other trail systems in Salmon River and the State Forests throughout Connecticut.

 

In addition to the input NEMBA will be providing, DEEP has expressed interest in receiving direct input from the trail community, including mountain bikers, and the surrounding community - this is where WE NEED YOUR HELP TO ENSURE WE DON’T LOSE ACCESS TO OUR TRAILS.

 

Please provide responses by December 10th!

 

Send responses to:

 

NEMBA is collecting all responses and will send a single document to DEEP as part of a formal response to the plan.

 

Response Guidance:

 
  • A link to the complete plan is below, along with excerpts from the plan that are specific to mountain biking and trail access. We encourage you to review the details and provide your thoughts on why preserving access is important to you.
     

  • Option 1 - Use this template to create your response, and paste into an email to the address above.

 
  • Option 2- Create your own response leveraging the following suggested topics, and send to the address above.

    • Do you support maintaining (or expanding) the current number of trails

    • Do you support the proposed trail closures and eradication of existing trails

    • Do you support creating an active management plan between DEEP and NEMBA to maintain and improve the trails leveraging trained NEMBA resources to assist with storm damage/downed trees, trail maintenance, etc.

    • Why the trail system is important to your health and well-being

    • How many years you’ve used the trail system and frequency of use

    • Note what activities you use the trail system for (biking, hiking, snowshoeing, etc)

    • Do you use the system with your family

    • Do you visit local businesses and/or come from outside of Hebron

     
    • Please respond with a positive tone. NEMBA and DEEP have been in active dialogues throughout 2020 regarding the future of the Grayville Trails, including hosting a ride with the DEEP Deputy Director on the trail system.

     
    • Our goal is to preserve access to the trails that generations have come to enjoy, and establish a partnership with DEEP to actively maintain the trails for future generations. DEEP has expressed interest in expanding the resulting model throughout CT State Forests, so it’s critical we all work towards a positive and mutually agreeable outcome!
     

    Thank you for your support,

    Brett Severson

    Chapter President, SECT NEMBA

     
    Click For Draft Plan: Salmon River Forest Management Plan
     

    Plan highlights specific to trail access and mountain biking:

     

    (Page 15) Section E. Extensive Areas of Concern

    Trails/Signs & Unauthorized/Illegal Activity

     

    As stated, the Airline State Park Trail is the only authorized trail in the Blackledge Block. However, this block of forestland is home to an extensive network of unauthorized mountain bike trails. This unauthorized trail system is found in the eastern most section of the block, traversing compartments 10 and 11. Trail construction has included cutting herbaceous plants out of intended pathways, cutting downed trees out of trails and installing narrow wooden bridges in order to cross streams. Section 23- 4-1 (b) of the general regulations of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection states “No person shall deface, destroy, alter, remove or otherwise injure in any manner any structures buildings, vegetation, earth or rock material, trees, or fuelwood, nor shall any wildlife be molested or disturbed except as authorized by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.” This trail network was constructed in direct disregard for this section of the general regulations by significantly altering vegetation, earth, rock material and trees in this area of state forestland. The trail system is mostly present in upland forestland with dry, stony soils. However, these trails traverse wet areas and steep slopes that are rutted and eroded. Wet areas tend to have the widest trails as hikers and cyclists search for the driest route around the wet area. In wet areas the impact of these trails is most severe and has resulted in rutting, soil compaction and erosion. On steep slopes trails were constructed with no regard to how water would drain off the trail, resulting in water running directly down the trail, increasing soil erosion. These developed, multi-use trails also conflict with the DEEP’s mission to conserve fisheries, wildlife and their habitats. Recreational trails fragment and degrade habitat by creating a constant disturbance to wildlife as well as creating avenues for non-native invasive plant infestations, which reduce biodiversity. According to the publication Trails for People and Wildlife (2019) published by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, trails can negatively impact wildlife within 400 feet of each side of a trail. Negative impacts include direct stress to wildlife such as changing the animal’s heart rate, temperature or stress hormones as well as causing them to change their foraging locations, reducing the area available for them to raise their young and putting them at increased risk of predation. Using the 400 feet on each side of a trail as a trails corridor of influence on the local wildlife, within compartments 10 and 11 of the Blackledge Block there is only seven percent of the total land area not being disturbed by recreational traffic. Multi-use trails used by mountain bikers and dog walkers can also negatively impact those engaged in fish and wildlife based recreation such as hunting and wildlife viewing, especially those seeking a more solitary outdoor experience. Trails can be a great way to help the public see the beauty of their public forestland, however, the authorization and construction of such trails needs to be well planned in order to maximize recreational opportunities while minimizing negative impacts. The current unauthorized trail network is excessively extensive across the land and was constructed with no considerations to its negative impact on soils, vegetation, wildlife and wildlife based recreation. Actions need to be taken to stop this illegal use.

     

    (Page 41) Recreational Site Improvement

    Educational signage outlined in the “Road Construction, Gates & Signs” section of this plan will be posted as a short term initiative aimed at managing high recreational use areas within this block of land, most notably in compartments 10 and 11. However, the recreational pressure in these two compartments of the forest is such that a sustainable recreation plan will need to be created and implemented as the long term solution to the recreational issues, outlined in section E “Extensive Areas of Concern” of this plan. The parks, forestry and wildlife divisions of DEEP will partner to create and implement this plan during the early years of this management plans lifespan. The overarching goals of a sustainable recreation plan for the area are as follows:

    Create a designated trail head with a kiosk where all applicable notices can be posted for recreationalists to view.

    Divert the primary access point away from the end of Grayville Road to reduce and minimize neighborhood disturbances.

    Stop the creation of additional trails that are constructed with no regard to DEEP general regulations or sustainable recreation.

    Reduce trail density to minimize recreational pressure on wildlife.

    Designate authorized trails and close non-authorized trails.

    Take measures to stabilize authorized trails. Stabilization measures will include avoiding sensitive

    wet and riparian areas, reducing steep grades by installing additional switchback turns, constructing bridges over unavoidable wet areas and/or streams and putting in water bars to divert water off trail to prevent erosion and sedimentation.

    Create a plan to maintain the authorized trail system and enforce violations.