Our Highlands of Roan stewardship team is gearing up for a busy summer of active land management and education in this one-of-a-kind, ecologically important area. We encourage you to find out more about the challenges faced by SAHC and our partners as the Carvers Gap and grassy balds have exploded in popularity, and explore alternate places in the Roan for outdoor recreation — including updated trails at Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area.
Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area
We are thrilled to celebrate the completion of infrastructure updates to improve access and recreational use of the Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area in TN. SAHC protected the 693-acre tract in 1986 and has co-managed it with the State of TN, which owns it.
In 2018, SAHC was awarded a $200,000 grant from the TN Recreational Trails Program for the replacement of pedestrian bridges in Hampton Creek Cove. The project was conducted in partnership with the Tennessee Division of Natural Areas and received additional monetary support from the Overmountain Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the Tennessee Trails Association Evan Means grant. Besides the two new bridges, the project also involved trail improvements, installation of an ADA parking access, new trail signs, information kiosk updates, and more, all to improve recreation access while protecting sensitive habitats.
We look forward to celebrating the completion of this project, which will help more people enjoy hiking, birding, fishing, and connecting with nature in this special place. Join one of our June Jamboree hikes in Hampton Creek Cove to see for yourself!
We want to give a special “thank you” to volunteers from the East TN Trails Association and to long-time volunteer Otto Smith for conducting his Eagle Scout project as part of this recreational trails project. Otto and NC Boy Scouts Troop 61 extended the size of the information kiosk and built a trail boardwalk up to the new lower pedestrian bridge.
Visitor Use Management
Over the past several years, the Carvers Gap access to the Appalachian Trail in the Highlands of Roan has seen dangerous levels of visitation, with people parking haphhazardly in roadways, social trails causing erosion issues, and crowds walking across fragile plant poulations. The Roan Highlands Visitor Use Management (RHVUM) Committee was formed in 2022 to bring together key management partners and stakeholders to collaborate and develop short-term and long-term plans to address visitor use management issues and to protect the ecological integrity and character of Roan Highlands – particularly Round Bald, Jane Bald and Grassy Ridge.
The RHVUM Committee is composed of representatives from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Pisgah National Forest (NC) & Cherokee National Forest (TN), Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy and the Tennessee Eastman Hiking & Canoeing Club, as well as local representation from Roan Highlands communities in NC and TN. The committee’s mission is to develop and maintain an appropriate balance for the protection of wildlife and rare plant habitats while minimizing the detrimental impacts from heavy visitor use, in order to provide the public with an outdoor recreational experience in an outstanding scenic viewshed of the southern Appalachians.
In February, SAHC hosted an informative Lunch and Learn about Roan Visitor Use Management, available to watch on our YouTube channel at @SAHC (see below).
As partners, we have also launched a new website dedicated to share collective knowledge and resources about the Roan, to better educate visitors and manage threats to fragile ecosystems.
Find out more at RoanHighlands.org.