Mount Mitchell area. Photo courtesy of N.C. Div. of Parks and Recreation website.

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Campgrounds and trails in the Mount Mitchell area are reopening. Photo courtesy of N.C. Div. of Parks and Recreation website.

The USDA Forest Service National Forests in North Carolina is reopening campgrounds and trails in the Mt. Mitchell area of the Appalachian Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest. The agency closed a number of sites earlier this month because of human encounters with bears.

The following facilities or sites will be reopened by (Aug. 29):

  • Briar Bottom Campground
  • Black Mountain Campground
  • Neals Creek Road
  • Buncombe Horse Trail- from Forest Service Road 472 to the intersection the Big Tom Gap trail (TR 1918)
  • Mt. Mitchell Trail – from Black Mountain Campground to Mt. Mitchell State Park
  • Mountain to Sea Trail – From State Hwy. 128 to Black Mountain Camp Ground
  • Higgins Bald Trail (TR 1908)

Forest Service Road 472 will be reopened (Aug. 30). However, backcountry camping remains closed in the above-mentioned areas as the Forest Service continues to monitor bear activity in the area.

On Aug. 10 and Aug. 12, the Forest Service closed campgrounds and other sites in the Appalachian Ranger District because of a number of human encounters with bears. During the following weeks, the Forest Service monitored bear activity and has deemed it safe to reopen the areas.

New Food and Refuse Restrictions in the Appalachian Ranger District

In an effort to reduce the number of human/bear encounters and promote public safety, the Forest Service is adopting new food and refuse restrictions in the Mt. Mitchell area of the Appalachian Ranger District. The restrictions will remain in place through Oct. 31, 2011.

Visitors to the Appalachian Ranger District must abide by the following guidelines when using developed and undeveloped recreation sites in the Mt. Mitchell area:

  • Food is prohibited in this area unless it is being eaten, prepared for eating, or being transported;
  • Food must be stored in a bear-resistant container; or disposed of in a bear-resistant trash receptacle.

Bear-resistant trash receptacles are available at most developed recreation sites. If bear-resistant trash cans or Dumpsters are unavailable, forest visitors are responsible for storing food or refuse in their own bear-resistant containers. For a complete list of bear safety tips, visit: http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/outdoorsafety/wildlife.php.

Kathleen O'Nan

Kathleen O'Nan is a contributing reporter to Carolina Public Press.

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