Sports & Recreation (33)
Updated 1/3: Conservationists express dismay as Feds conclude ‘no significant impact’ from construction of Wears Valley mountain bike complexWritten by JJ Stambaugh
Feds clear 14-mile mountain bike trail network off Foothills Parkway, but no funding is secured
GATLINBURG — Those who logged protests against a National Park Service plan to carve a 14-mile mountain bike trail network through the forest off Foothills Parkway said they still opposed the plan despite federal conclusions it would not adversely impact the natural environment of the area.
“I’m very disappointed,” said Donna Edwards, an outspoken conservationist who lives in Walland and participated in the public scoping process. “What are (the) reasons for choosing the alternative with the largest footprint and greatest environmental impact?
“I fail to understand why mountain bikers’ needs are considered to be more important than those of birders and hikers, considering the extensive mountain bike trail networks in other areas of East Tennessee.”
She said arguments against approving the Wears Valley mountain bike trails were wise and well documented.
Here is the original Hellbender Press story:
A proposed off-road bike trail in the Wears Valley section of the Foothills Parkway that would be operated by the National Park Service has overcome a procedural hurdle but appears to be no closer to actually being built due to a lack of funding.
An environmental assessment to determine the project’s potential impact on wildlife and the environment led to an official “Finding of No Significant Impact” (FONSI), park officials said in a press release issued Thursday.
“We understand the public’s desire to have a purpose-built bike trail, and this marks a step for potential future development of a trail in Wears Valley,” said Cassius Cash, superintendent of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. “Having the signed FONSI allows us the opportunity to explore potential funding paths for both the construction and the annual operational costs.”
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Each year more than 600,000 people visit Ijams Nature Center
This is the second installment of an occasional series, Hellbent, profiling citizens who work to preserve and improve the Southern Appalachian environment.
KNOXVILLE — On any given day, the parking lot at Ijams Nature Center in South Knoxville is packed with cars, trucks, and buses as folks of all ages flock to hike, climb, swim and paddle its 300-plus acres of protected wildlands.
Making sure the center’s 620,000 or so annual visitors have a positive experience interacting with Mother Nature requires dozens of full-time employees plus a generous contingent of volunteers. Ensuring the complex operation stays on course and within its $1.8 million operating budget is a tough job, but Ijams Executive Director Amber Parker has been doing it for six years now and has no desire to be doing anything else.
When Amber talks about Ijams she fairly bursts with giddy, infectious energy. This is a woman who has clearly found her place in the world, and even a brief walk along any of the center’s 21 trails makes one wonder if the land itself hasn’t responded in like fashion to her devotion.
City cultivation of urban nature amenities proceeds apace
KNOXVILLE — The latest phase in a multimillion dollar plan to turn the southern end of the James White Parkway into an integral part of the city’s Urban Wilderness officially kicked off Monday afternoon (Dec. 19).
Numerous officials, including Mayor Indya Kincannon, showed up for the groundbreaking of the Baker Creek Pavilion, a key component of the ambitious project.
The city is pouring $2.7 million into the Baker Creek area of the Urban Wilderness Gateway Park, which will offer public restrooms, a picnic area and plenty of parking.
Updated: Smokies crews recover drowned Knoxville kayaker
TOWNSEND — Smokies recovery teams on Monday found the body of Carl Keaney, 61, of Knoxville, in the Little River.
Keaney was last seen kayaking the Sinks during high flow when he vanished under water, prompting calls to Great Smoky Mountains National Park rangers who, along with other local crews, proceeded to search for his body for three days.
Here’s the previous Hellbender Press report:
Teams are searching for a missing kayaker in what Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials are now calling a “recovery operation” after a 61-year-old man disappeared underwater while boating above the Sinks on Little River. High water levels from recent heavy rains are making search and recovery difficult.
“Around 3:40 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 16 Great Smoky Mountains National Park dispatch received a call that a 61-year-old man had disappeared underwater while kayaking above The Sinks and did not resurface,” according to a news release from the park.
Traditional Tennessee trot lines pose a fatal collision with river recreation
This story was originally published by Tennessee Lookout.
NASHVILLE — Brandon Archer was canoeing down the Buffalo River with friends over Labor Day weekend three years ago when he jumped out for a swim and drowned.
Archer had become entangled in a trotline, an unmanned fishing line studded with hooks that stretched across the river. The MTSU football player died a day shy of his 22nd birthday.
“When they found him he was under 10 feet of water and they found trotline wrapped around his ankle,” Courtney Archer, Brandon’s mother, told members of the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission this month. “When I saw my son I remember the marks in his ankle from the trotline that was there.”
Black people like nature, too. But you wouldn’t know it from looking at outdoor magazines before Outdoor Afro got started.
If time and money weren’t an issue, what would you do?
That’s what Rue Mapp’s mentor asked her as she faced the completion of her college degree and an uncertain job market.
“I’d probably start a website to reconnect Black people to the outdoors,” Mapp replied, a story she recounts in her new book Nature Swagger. Soon after that she launched the blog Outdoor Afro, which began with stories of her own experiences in nature. It was inspired not just by her own love of the outdoors, but of a desire to increase the visibility of Black people enjoying those spaces.
With food trucks, demos and contests, this year’s family-friendly bike festival is ready to roll. And they haven’t forgotten about the Vols.
KNOXVILLE — There’s a different kind of homecoming set for this weekend. It doesn’t feature football, but it still involves wheel routes. It’s a celebration of the city’s unique outdoor recreational offerings in an urban center.
The Appalachian Mountain Bike Club, a 650-member posse devoted to the acquisition, maintenance and marketing of regional mountain bike trails for multiple uses, hosts its 13th FREE annual fall festival Nov. 4-6, centered around Baker Creek Preserve and the rest of the Urban Wilderness.
GATLINBURG — The director of the National Park Service is expected in Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Saturday to celebrate National Public Lands Day.
Director Chuck Sams plans to make some remarks in appreciation for the volunteers who help backstop national park maintenance costs before citizens fan out for various tasks across the park. Sams is the first Native American to head the park service, and he will be joined by Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Chief Richard G. Sneed.
This story was provided by Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Next demonstration on Thursday, Oct. 20
GATLINBURG — Great Smoky Mountains National Park is celebrating the success of a community science project led by nonprofit partner Discover Life in America (DLiA) called Smokies Most Wanted. The initiative encourages visitors to record life they find in the park through the iNaturalist nature app. DLiA and the park use these data points to map species range, track exotic species, and even discover new kinds of life in the park.
“iNaturalist usage in the Smokies has skyrocketed from just four users in 2011, to 3,800 in 2020, to now more than 7,100 users,” said Will Kuhn, DLIA’s director of science and research.
In August, the project reached a milestone, surpassing 100,000 records of insects, plants, fungi, and other Smokies life submitted through the app. Among them are 92 new species not previously seen in the park.
Climbers can clean their crags during Obed event
WARTBURG — The Obed Wild and Scenic River will host the park’s annual Adopt-a-Crag event on Saturday, Sept. 11 in cooperation with the East Tennessee Climbers Coalition.
Volunteers are needed to help with a variety of projects, including general trail maintenance and litter pickup. Participants should meet at the Lilly Pad Hopyard Brewery at 9 a.m. to register and receive a project assignment. Carpooling is suggested, and volunteers should bring their own lunch, water, hand tools and gloves.
When the work is done, volunteers are invited to spend the day climbing, kayaking or hiking. The ETCC plans a volunteer appreciation dinner that evening at the Lilly Pad.
For more information, contact the Obed Wild and Scenic River at (423) 346-6294.
Everybody has a story about the natural environment. Look around, and into yourself.
University of Tennessee journalism professor Mark Littmann asks students in his environmental writing class every semester to write short sketches about environmental issues they may observe during any given day. Such an assignment requires an almost poetical approach. Here's a sampling from spring semester.
A reef of bones
Huge schools of rainbow-colored fish weave through the brightly colored corals as Sir David Attenborough describes a day in the life of a fish on the television screen. A little girl is mesmerized; this is no Disney fantasy but real life. The nature shows on Animal Planet capture her imagination and soon mornings and afternoons are spent watching big cats and meerkats navigate the wild spaces they call home. She finds an instant favorite in the book “The Rainbow Fish” and celebrates turning four with a sparkly rainbow fish cake, hand decorated with sprees for rainbow scales. She insists someday she will swim among the fish in their magical undersea world.
Smokies parking fees will generate $7 million in revenue for park infrastructure
GATLINBURG — Getting outside just got more expensive.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced Monday the park would proceed with plans for a $5/per day parking pass required of all cars staying in one spot for more than 15 minutes.
Weekly passes will be $15, and annual passes will be available for $40, according to a release from the park service. Fees will also increase $3 for backcountry and campground permits, meaning campers and backpackers will have to fork over $8 a night.
Light pollution is disrupting the seasonal rhythms of plants and trees, lengthening pollen season in US cities
City lights that blaze all night are profoundly disrupting urban plants’ phenology — shifting when their buds open in the spring and when their leaves change colors and drop in the fall. New research I coauthored shows how nighttime lights are lengthening the growing season in cities, which can affect everything from allergies to local economies.
(Hellbender Press has covered light pollution, such as this great article from Rick Vaughan).
In our study, my colleagues and I analyzed trees and shrubs at about 3,000 sites in U.S. cities to see how they responded under different lighting conditions over a five-year period. Plants use the natural day-night cycle as a signal of seasonal change along with temperature.
HuffPost: More than 50 House Republicans want to repeal a century-old excise tax that bankrolls wildlife conservation
In the latest “gun rights” lash-out from the GOP, legislation has been filed to abolish firearms taxes levied on gunmakers that fund wildlife conservation.
The Republican legislation is framed as a way to defend gun purchasers from odious taxation under the 2nd Amendment umbrella, but leading hunting and fishing interests said the proposal is misguided and misses the target by a wide mark.
The levy as currently written applies to gunmakers, not individual firearms purchasers.