Photo by the Signal Mountain Police Department / Cars line Ohio Avenue near the Rainbow Lake trailhead in Signal Mountain. The town banned parking on the road starting March 27, and closed the Rainbow Lake trail starting at noon March 29. Officers are posted at both the Signal Point and Ohio Avenue trailheads to enforce the closure.

In its ongoing effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while also providing reasonable access to town services and amenities, the town of Signal Mountain is reopening its transfer station for limited use and closing Rainbow Lake trail until further notice.

The transfer station, which has been closed since March 19, will be open to citizens one day a week on their usual trash pickup day starting Wednesday, April 1. For instance, citizens whose trash is picked up on Wednesdays may use the transfer station on Wednesdays, said Town Manager Boyd Veal.

"This will limit the number of people who will be coming in any given day," he said.

On their usual trash pickup day, citizens may use the transfer station from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to dispose of household trash, brush and scrap metal. Building materials, bulk items, and items that contain refrigerant are prohibited.

People with nonresident cards may use the transfer station on Fridays during the same hours and with the same item restrictions as citizens with Friday trash pickup, said Veal.

Rather than have people share a pen to sign in, an on-site attendant will check addresses from a distance without people having to leave their cars. Only four cars will be allowed up the hill to the station at a time, he said.

The town's recycling center, which was also closed March 19, will remain closed. The way the center and its lot are configured prevent a similar solution to what the town is trying at its transfer station from working at the recycling center, said Veal.

The popular Rainbow Lake trail had so many visitors on Saturday, March 28, that the town decided to close the trail starting at noon on Sunday, March 29.  

The Signal Mountain Police Department had previously prohibited people from parking on Ohio Avenue on Friday, March 27, because the Rainbow Lake trail had become "inundated" with visitors. When the parking lot of the trailhead off of Ohio Avenue filled, people were parking on the street and potentially blocking access to emergency vehicles.

Since March 29 the department has had officers posted at the trailhead on Ohio Avenue and at the Signal Point trailhead to notify people of the trail's closure. The town plans to keep the officers at both trailheads until it is deemed no longer necessary, said Veal.

"The hope is that we can use COVID emergency funds to pay for the overtime of the officers," said Mayor Dan Landrum.

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park closed the Signal Point parking lot and restrooms March 24, but the park remained open and people continued to park in the lot. 

Landrum said he stopped by the Signal Point trailhead Sunday and spoke to the officer on duty, who told him she had turned away groups of people who had driven from Knoxville, Atlanta and Nashville to hike at the park that day.

"The reason [COVID-19] spreads more in cities is you have so many people packed together," said Landrum. "What we were having was people from cities coming and packing together in our small town, and I think [closing the Rainbow Lake trail] was something that needed to be done."

The town's batting cages and playgrounds have been closed, and town ballfields have been closed to organized use. All of the town's public spaces where social distance can be adequately maintained remain open, said Veal.