Anyone who wants to help with rerouting work on the Fiery Gizzard Trail should contact ranger Jason Reynolds at Jason.Reynolds@tn.gov or go to the Friends of the South Cumberland MeetUp page online at Meetup.com/Friends-of-South-Cumberland-State-Park. Volunteer work days are Saturdays with workers gathering at the Grundy Forest Parking area in Tracy City starting at 9 a.m. CST. Groups usually work until 1-2 p.m. Rangers transport volunteers to the work sites.
An open house is planned Feb. 27 at the South Cumberland State Park Visitors Center on U.S. Highway 41 between Monteagle and Tracy City from noon until 3 p.m. CST where Friends of South Cumberland State Park officials will show off newly-renovated exhibit spaces. The new, open-concept, brightly-painted areas feature native plant exhibits, an upgraded log cabin to explore, interactive computer displays and a display on Hike into History Challenge hikes. “Davy Crockett” (also known as Park Manager George Shinn) will be on hand as part of the “Tennessee’s 50,000 Trees’ event. A brunch is also planned at Dutch Maid Bakery in Tracy City followed by a hike on the Fiery Gizzard Trail. Find out more at friendsofscsra.org or check out the group’s Facebook page.
Despite the wet, cold weather, work is steadily moving forward to reroute the Fiery Gizzard Trail on the Cumberland Plateau, but crews need some helping hands.
The Friends of South Cumberland State Park just received a $2,000 Tennessee Trails Association grant that will pay for a heaving-lifting system. Park rangers will use the system to move large rocks, bridge lumber and other trail-building materials on the treacherous, steep terrain of the Southern Cumberland Plateau in Grundy County, Tenn.
The 13-mile Fiery Gizzard Trail, part of South Cumberland State Park, draws 3,000 to 4,000 users a month. It has been listed in Backpacker magazine as one of the top 25 hiking trails in the U.S. and the sixth best trail for fall foliage, according to park officials.
The rerouting will move the trail off private land its owner wants to sell. The friends group once got an appraisal on the land of $265,000, but that was less than half of South Carolina veterinarian Jim Southard Jr.'s $450,000 cost and $100,000 in improvements, the landowner said in August.
In 2014, Southard told South Cumberland State Park officials he planned to close the portion of the trail on his property by Dec. 1, 2015.
Hugh P. Liebert, a Florida cardiologist, has a 100-acre tract beside Southard and he wanted to move the trail, too.
Liebert, who worked with crews on the project over the summer, said in August he believes moving the trail completely onto park land will make for a longer-lasting solution because there is no certainty of any better deals or new land acquisitions in the future.
Armed with the grant-funded equipment, workers on the rocky mountainsides are using a system with "all the cables, trolleys, pulleys and accessories that would allow the hoist to be used to its full potential across much greater distances," friends group vice president Naullain Kendrick said in a statement on the grant.
"This gear will have multiple uses even after the trail reroute is complete, including rescue potential," Kendrick said. "It's a key piece of equipment that will benefit the park for years to come."
Another $25,000 Lyndhurst Foundation grant funded a massive timber bridge across McAlloyd Creek and two staircases along the bluffs in McAlloyd Cove, officials said. The materials were air-dropped into the gorge with some help from a Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopter.
Now, volunteers are needed to get the rest of the project done.
"So far, the trail work has had awesome support," ranger Park Greer said. "How quickly we complete the work depends entirely on how many volunteers we get."
"We have jobs for all ages and skill levels," Greer said. "It's not just moving boulders. We need people to rake leaves, level the soil, trim branches and deliver tools."
Scout and church groups and community service organizations are welcome.
The new trail will take in some previously unseen vistas with spectacular cascades and smaller falls, according to officials.
"While the reroute adds some difficulty to the trail, the new views along the way make it totally worth it," Greer said.
Greer called on local park supporters and users to take ownership of the project.
"It's your state park. It's your trail. Please come out and help us."
Contact staff writer Ben Benton at email@example.com or twitter.com/BenBenton or www.facebook.com/ben.benton1 or 423-757-6569.