Partnership for the Wilson Ridge Trail: A Mountain Biker’s Alderaan

I think it’s fair to say the majority of our efforts with the Grandfather CFLR are ecologically driven.  The same goes for this blog.  But I want to take a quick moment to recognize one CFLR effort that is reaching beyond that.  This year like many years we allocate a bit of the CFLR efforts to trail work, particularly where there is opportunity to improve the hydrologic function of a trail.

So, this year we are working with the relatively newly formed Northwestern NC Mountain Bike Alliance (Alliance) to focus both volunteer efforts and Forest Service efforts on the Wilson Ridge trail.  The Grandfather Ranger District has been working with the Alliance to prioritize trails on the Grandfather District that are open to mountain bikes, need some work and are constant with the Pisgah Trails Strategy.  We landed on Wilson Ridge as the top priority.

Alliance_WRTOn the Wilson Ridge Trail the Alliance has already hosted six workdays, totaling 147 hours of volunteer work to maintain and improve four miles of this trail, including placing rolling grade dips and protecting two seeps along the trail.  On top of those efforts the Alliance has just received an IMBA/CLIF Bar Trail Preservation Grant to assist them with putting a trail machine on the upper legs of the trail.  Pair those with a Forest Service contract to repair a mile and a half of trail and we’re making some great progress on a very accessible trail.

Trails are how we get out and into the Forest.  Providing good user experiences are some of our best opportunities to get folks excited about the nature and about stewardship.   I’m very excited about the partnerships coming together to better the experience for mountain bikers on the Grandfather Ranger District.

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Balancing Fire and Site Conversion

It’s been about a month since the most recent field trip to discuss southern pine restoration opportunities in the mountains. One of the points for discussion was balancing the need for fire at a landscape level while protecting the investments made in reforestation efforts. We talked a bit about trying to figure out when sites recently planted with shortleaf could withstand a reintroduction of fire. I don’t know that any of us know that magic year and I’m certain as all things silviculture related are the correct answer will be “that depends.”  We’ll need to consider current stocking, species composition, intensity of fire, fuel loading, and a whole host of elements that make up a desired condition.

Pinaceae Pinus echinata - shortleaf pine: Form, shortleaf will often resprout from its basal crook following a fire.

Well just this past weekend Margit Bucher sent around the published proceedings from the 2013 Consortium of Appalachian Fire Managers (http://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/pubs/gtr/gtr_srs199/gtr_srs199.pdf ) and on page 42 is a synopsis of David Clabo’s theses on the sprouting capability and growth of one-year-old shortleaf pine seedlings. While this study is not quite comprehensive enough to answer all of our questions, it certain points to seasonality of burning not being a major factor in shortleaf sprouting potential and gives us an idea of the survival or sprouting potential we might expect. I’d love to hear from any of you on how this information might be useful information in our restoration efforts, if anyone is aware of research on a wider age group or of similar work with pitch pine.