U.S. Forest Service Graveyard Fields Trail Project - Connection to John Rock Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway (MP 419)

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The Pisgah Ranger District of the Pisgah National Forest is seeking public input on the Graveyard Fields Project. The Graveyard Fields area is located 25 miles southwest of Asheville, NC and ranges in elevation from about 5,000' to over 6,200' (see attached map). The Pisgah Ranger District is visited each year by millions of people who primarily experience the Forest through recreation, and more specifically through visiting destinations accessible by trails and similar infrastructure. The Graveyard Fields project seeks to restore, protect, and improve one of the most highly visited destinations on the District, known for its distinctive geography, natural communities, and waterfalls.

The project is divided into four primary categories of work: Heavy trail maintenance, trail relocation and construction, stream restoration, and red spruce restoration.

U.S. Forest Service Trail Construction & Access Point in partnership with the Blue Ridge Parkway

Trail construction would be designed to more widely distribute the use, create loop opportunities and provide another access point. Graveyard Fields is not likely to see a decrease in visitation, and therefore we must adapt to manage it differently. Our greatest opportunity for success is creating something that can be properly maintained while meeting the desires of visitors. The segments of new trail would seek to create a second route to a destination waterfall, create loops within the system that reduce traffic on existing infrastructure, and enable an additional access point that could absorb the demonstrated and consistent increase in visitation. In addition, this other access point and the associated trail could provide a point of access for mechanized equipment to complete the activities described above as well as future trail maintenance which would help ensure a sustainable trail system.

The addition of this access point can only occur through partnership with the National Park Service. In its current form, all parking for the greater Graveyard Fields area takes place in a single parking lot managed by the Blue Ridge Parkway unit of the National Park Service with overflow (both legal and illegal) on both sides of the Parkway in either direction. This overflow parking is unsafe for those traveling in passing vehicles; unsafe for visitors walking on the Parkway to access the trail network; and problematic for managing the roadway surface itself. This proposal, in collaboration with the National Park Service, would use the existing John Rock Overlook on the Parkway as an additional access point for Graveyard Fields. The associated pedestrian crossing on the Parkway would be clearly established and planned with crossing safety as a priority, ultimately connecting the overlook to a new trail constructed on National Park Service (NPS) land and leading to National Forest System (NFS) land. Trail construction on both NPS and NFS lands would involve a small amount of vegetation clearing. Graveyard Fields was historically managed independently by the agencies on either side of the property line, but the consequences of its high visitation are felt by both. In recent years, the collaborative management of this area between the agencies has increased. By creating an additional safe access via the overlook, use of the area can be better distributed and the safety of the visitor experience can be improved.

For more information about the project, and to provide comment on the project, please review the full project description by clicking "Open for Comment" to the left, or see the U.S. Forest Service project link (below or by clicking "Links" to left).

U.S. Forest Service project link to the Graveyard Fields Project:

The preferred method to provide comments is by submitting them electronically at the link above. On the right side of the project webpage, click Comment/Object on project and submit your comments. Please do not submit electronic comments by email.

Additionally, comments may be mailed to: Pisgah Ranger District, USDA Forest Service, Attn: Jeff Owenby, 1600 Pisgah Highway, Pisgah Forest, NC 28768. Comments will become part of the project record and may be released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Contact Information

Dawn Leonard
Park Planning and NEPA Specialist