I. Public Involvment

A. Public Meeting Process

A public meeting concerning management of Jocassee Gorges was held on January 8, 1998, at Pickens High School. Approximately 800 people attended the meeting to provide management suggestions. The group was briefed on the Jocassee Gorges area, after which the entire group was split up into 20 rooms to allow all attendees an equal opportunity to express their ideas. Dr. Chris Sieverdes of Clemson University, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, conducted the meeting. Each room had a facilitator and a recorder. The facilitators allowed each person to state issues they felt should be considered in the management plan, and recorders recorded the ideas. Each participant was given equal opportunity to discuss the importance of his issue(s) before the group. At the end of the discussion, each participant was given the opportunity to vote five times on the management issues they felt were most important. A compilation of all issues presented along with the number of votes they received is presented in Appendix A-1. The top five issues raised in each of the 20 facilitated working groups is presented in Appendix A-2.

Many letters, resolutions, petitions, and phone calls regarding management of the property also were received prior to development of a management plan. This information was thoroughly reviewed and considered by South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) staff.

Following this process, a draft Jocassee Gorges Resource Management Plan was prepared by SCDNR staff with assistance from a committee composed of representatives from South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism (SCPRT), South Carolina Forestry Commission (SCFC), Duke Power Company (DPC), and Crescent Resources, Inc. (CRI). The management plan was placed in public libraries in Oconee, Pickens, Greenville, and Anderson Counties for public review on March 19, 1998. The plan was placed in 17 SCDNR offices state-wide and was available on the SCDNR web site. On March 16, 1998, The SCDNR issued a state-wide news release publicizing the availability of the plan, where public comments on the plan could be directed, and announced upcoming public meetings where the plan would be available for review and comments. Two additional public meetings were held; one on March 26, 1998 in Pickens and another on April 2, 1998 in Columbia, to gather public comments on the draft management plan. SCDNR staff was available during both public meetings to answer questions and discuss the plan with the public. All attendees were allowed to vote to express their approval or disapproval of the plan, and to provide written or oral comments on the plan. Votes received during both public meetings were compiled. Results of the voting were as follows: Fifty-seven (57) individuals indicated they supported the draft plan without change; Ninety-nine individuals (99) supported the draft plan with minor changes; Thirty-six individuals (36) indicated they did not support the draft plan; Two individuals did not enter a vote on the plan.

A SCDNR news release set a deadline of April 9, 1998 for any additional public comments on the management plan. All ideas concerning the draft management plan that were received through public hearings, letters, E-mail, personal contacts, consultations with conservation groups, etc. were thoroughly considered by SCDNR staff. A summary of major issues brought forth are included in Appendix A-3.

The variety of issues proposed to SCDNR throughout the entire public planning process are wide-ranging and diverse. In the area of natural resource management and recreational opportunities, public comments have emphasized the need for scientific-based, multi-use management, and opportunities for the public. This plan strives to incorporate all public comment received to date.

Management decisions will be made using the premise that the natural resources and character of the area are of primary importance. Natural resource recreation that is compatible with the area's natural character is considered and addressed. Initial economic constraints (currently no funding available for management) have forced many good issues to be reconsidered at a future time. For example, SCDNR has received numerous requests for "reasonable access". Initial funding may not allow for two vehicular access points into the main section of the Jocassee Gorges. When funding allows, a second access will be provided. The most important issue with the public has been to "maintain the status quo" or provide the same opportunities as in the past. This plan meets that expectation while striving to improve in the area of natural resource conservation.

B. Consultation with Conservation Groups

A number of conservation organizations have a history of working voluntarily on the protection and enhancement of natural resources in the Jocassee Gorges and on the upkeep of user facilities within the area (trails, etc.). SCDNR has consulted with representatives of many of these conservation organizations. Consultations have involved a review of 1) the draft management plan, 2) the natural resource projects that these organizations have been involved with in the Jocassee Gorges, and 3) the items that the organizations think are pertinent for planning, protection and management of the area's natural resources. Consultations have, in some cases, identified areas where conservation organizations can assist SCDNR in managing the property, possibly through volunteer efforts. The SCDNR will continue to consult these groups on a routine basis in order to ensure a complete review of ongoing activities and to gain important planning input.