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This 28-foot-long bridge spanning McAlloyd Branch is ready for South Cumberland State Park hikers months ahead of schedule, completing what officials say is one of the most difficult pieces of the Fiery Gizzard Trail reroute. The rerouting work stems from a request from a private landowner to remove the trail from his land. A recent similar request from a second landowner means an additional mile of trail must be added to the rerouting project. Volunteers have logged more than 3,000 hours to move the timeline for completion up.
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Ranger Park Greer moves a stone step into place on a portion of the project to reroute the Fiery Gizzard Trail in Grundy County, Tenn. The rerouting work stems from a request from a private landowner to remove the trail from his land. A recent similar request from a second landowner means an additional mile of trail must be added to the rerouting project.

Help out

To help out or learn more, visit Friends of South Cumberland State Park at www.friendsofscsra.org, email park ranger Jason Reynolds at Jason.Reynolds@tn.gov or call the South Cumberland State Park office at 931-924-2980.

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Just as a project in Grundy County, Tenn., nears completion to redirect the Fiery Gizzard Trail around one private landowner who wants the trail off his land, a second property owner is forcing another reroute of the trail.

Park Manager George Shinn and park supporters weren't surprised by the request because several portions of the trail cross private land in "hand-shake" agreements made years ago when it was first being developed. Last summer after the first request was made, Shinn said he suspected other private landowners along the trail might take similar steps.

The second property owner, Florida cardiologist Dr. Hugh P. Liebert, said in August he also was considering asking that the trail be moved off his property. Liebert had worked with volunteers early on in the first rerouting project.

Officials started routing the path onto preserved park land to satisfy the first property owner, and the additional mile of work isn't viewed as a serious problem because of the support officials have had for the project.

"We are proud to partner with the park in this effort, and we know our volunteers will rally to build the additional mile of trail," Friends of South Cumberland State Park president Latham Davis said.

According to park and friends officials, more than 3,000 volunteer hours have been logged on the Fiery Gizzard Trail rerouting project since August when the work began.

Shinn said Liebert has asked that the trail be removed from his property by Dec. 1.

"We plan to have it completed way before that deadline," Shinn said. "Our goal is to finish by Labor Day."

Despite the potential inconvenience, park officials believe rerouting the trail onto protected park lands will preserve it.

The first rerouting project was triggered by a request from South Carolina veterinarian Dr. James H. Southard Jr., whose property had been used for a central piece of the trail leading to Raven's Point, an overlook and a campsite along the trail.

Southard said last August he would like to be able to sell the property.

The friends group got grant money from the Lyndhurst Foundation and Tennessee Trails Association to purchase materials and tools for the first phase of the rerouting project. Shinn said the group is putting up $12,000 to hire a student to work on the trail project and to help with other trail needs that have been neglected during the rerouting work.

Shinn said without help from the friends group, closure of the trail on private land would have been disastrous.

"Rangers Jason Reynolds and Park Greer are doing an outstanding job," Shinn said of his colleagues' overseeing efforts in the woods. "Since August they have led a volunteer crew every Saturday and often during the week as well."

The project also netted some help from the local electric utility, Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative, in the form of telephone poles to use as bridge foundations. The trails association provided funds for a hoist system used to move heavy rock and lumber down into the gorge, officials said.

"The Friends of South Cumberland facilitated the receipt of the grants and have been invaluable in spreading the word to the public and the press. We are thankful to have these great partnerships," Shinn said.

Shinn said now there are two private landowners remaining with parts of Fiery Gizzard Trail on them.

"They're talking to us," he said. He was reluctant to make predictions.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or twitter.com/BenBenton or www.facebook.com/ben.benton1 or 423-757-6569.

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