A huge boulder that rolled down the side of Lookout Mountain, Tenn., sometime on New Year's Eve and planted itself in the middle of the popular Hardy hiking trail will stay put for a while.
"We're going to let it sit there," said Wesley Hughen, assistant regional director for the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
"After further consideration ... it's recommended that it stay put."
A department official had discussed having TDOT workers break up the boulder by hand-drilling holes 8 to 10 feet deep and filling them with expanding grout that fractures rock.
But officials have decided to hold off on boulder removal during the rainy season because of concern that loose rock could come down on workers.
Officials also think the big boulder, which is right above Scenic Highway, may act as a barrier and keep other rocks from sliding onto the road.
"The boulder is not going anywhere," said Robyn Carlton, CEO of the Lookout Mountain Conservancy that owns and maintains the Hardy Trail, a former narrow-gauge railroad right of way. "It's really kind of serving as a buffer right now for anything that might come down."
Hughen said the boulder may stay there permanently.
The big boulder blocks Hardy Trail about a mile from the Craven's House trailhead. As it rolled downhill, the rock wiped out two switchbacks on the Mountain Beautiful Trail that's part of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.
Chief Park Ranger Todd Roeder said officials were going to meet today to discuss the big boulder and the smaller -- but still large -- fragments of rock left uphill from it by the slide.
Breaking up the boulder "would be a pretty significant cost to the park right now," Roeder said. "We don't know if we have the money."
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.