Great Smoky Mountains National Park Announces Finding of No Significant Impact for New Trail System
By: Rachel Fussell, PeopleForBikes’ eMTB policy and program manager
The proposed trail system will feature 11.8 miles of bicycle-optimized mountain bike trails in the Wears Valley area of the national park.
In compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the National Park Service (NPS) recently prepared an environmental assessment (EA) to examine alternatives and environmental impacts associated with a proposed new mountain bike trail system within the Wears Valley portion of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). The NPS issued a decision and a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the Wears Valley Mountain Bike Trail System EA.
The purpose of the trail system project is to enhance visitor experience by providing mountain bike trails as a unique recreational opportunity in GSMNP. While more than 800 miles of trails exist in the Park, less than 8 miles are designated for biking. Public roads within the Park are open to biking, but no purpose-built mountain biking trails currently exist.
The EA analyzed a no-action alternative and three action alternatives for the construction of a mountain bike trail system. Based on the analysis presented in the Revised EA, which was available for public review from February 8 to March 10, 2022, and after considering public comments, the NPS selected alternative 3 (Proposed Action and NPS preferred alternative) for the development of a mountain bike trail system if construction and annual operational funds become available.
Alternative 3 will create a mountain bike trail system with approximately 4.2 miles of easy trail (green, less than 5% slope), 2.9 miles of moderate trail (blue, 5-10% slope), and 4.7 miles of advanced trail (black, 10-15% slope) for a total of 11.8 miles of bicycle-optimized mountain bike trails in Wears Valley. The selected alternative would also include approximately 2.3 miles of pedestrian-only trails in the project area for a total of 14.1 miles of trails. An approximately 0.93-mile access road would also need to be constructed to access the mountain bike trail system and trailhead. Amenities at the trailhead would include a bike wash and repair station, restrooms, and picnic tables. An informational kiosk for orientation, trail etiquette, and rules for mountain biking would also be constructed at the trailhead.
The FONSI and NPS responses to comments on the EA and associated documents are available for viewing online at the Wears Valley Mountain Bike Trail System website and on the PeopleForBikes website, including an FAQ Resource.