KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is moving forward with a plan to create a bike trail system within the park.
This comes after park officials finished an environmental assessment looking at the potential impacts of creating the bike trails. Officials shared that despite more than 800 miles of trails in the park, fewer than 8 miles are designated for biking. With the lack of mountain biking trails in the park, officials wanted to find ways to allow more biking within the park and take advantage of “new recreational opportunities” in Wears Valley.
The National Park Service issued a Finding of No Significant Impact for the Wears Valley Mountain Bike Trail System Environmental Assessment (EA). The NPS prepared the EA to look at alternatives and environmental impacts associated with a proposed mountain bike trail system within the Wears Valley portion of Foothills Parkway Section 8D.
Previous planning efforts done between 1968 and 1984 identified Section 8D as one of the most desirable areas for recreational development.
“We understand the public’s desire to have a purpose-built bike trail, and this marks a step for potential future development of a trail in Wears Valley,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “Having the signed FONSI allows us the opportunity to explore potential funding paths for both the construction and the annual operational costs.”
According to the NPS, the EA examined the no-action alternative and three action alternatives for the construction of a mountain bike trail system. After looking at the analysis in the EA and considering public comments, NPS selected “alternative 3 (Proposed Action and NPS preferred alternative) for the development of a mountain bike trail system if construction and annual operational monies become available.”
Under this alternative, NPS would create a mountain bike trail system with 4.2 miles of easy trail, 2.9 miles of moderate trail, and 4.7 miles of advanced trail for a total of 11.8 miles of mountain bike trails. The plan also includes 2.3 miles of pedestrian-only trails in the project area. To allow people to access the trailhead, a 0.93-mile access road would need to be constructed. NPS adds that amenities at the trailhead would include a bike wash and repair station, restrooms, and picnic tables.
The next steps for this project include a business analysis by the NPS to look at possible operational strategies for a mountain bike trail system. Funding for construction has not yet been identified. To find out more about the plan for the bike trail system including the EA can be seen on the Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website.