VIII. Road Access and Maintenance Plan

A. Vehicle Access

Access on the property via a paved road system is extremely limited. Highway 178 and Cleo Chapman Road (county road 143) are the only paved roads that access the property. Paved roads at three adjoining state parks provide access to the boundaries of Jocassee Gorges. Approximately 138 miles of "dirt" roads exist on the property. Roads on the property fall into two major categories: 1) roads open seasonally for public access, forest management, fire control, etc. and 2) roads closed to public vehicle access but used for official access, forest access, fire control, and public access for mountain biking and hiking, etc. The property contains approximately 70 miles of seasonally gated roads and 68 miles of permanently gated forest access roads. Seasonal public access roads take the form of "jeep trails," and four-wheel drive vehicles are needed for safe travel. The property is flanked by several state parks that offer improved access to the Jocassee Gorges area. Table Rock State Park adjoins the property on the eastern boundary. Devil's Fork State Park and Keowee-Toxaway State Park lie on the western boundary of Jocassee Gorges. These parks provide improved access to the Jocassee Gorges area. Table Rock State Park is a major access point to the foothills trail, while Devil's Fork State Park provides boating access to the "heart" of the Jocassee Gorges Project.

Public vehicular access to the Jocassee Gorges property will follow a schedule similar to that used in the past (Appendix A-7, and Appendix B-2). Roads initially open to public access include Camp Adger, Horsepasture (from Hwy 178 only), and Cane Creek Road (to the vicinity of Cane Creek), and portions of Standing Rock Road. All roads will continue to be open seasonally beginning September 15 through January 2 and during the month of April as they have in the past, provided adequate funding is available for maintenance. Access to the Musterground property of Jocassee Gorges will continue to be available through the Bad Creek Facility. This gate will also be open September 15 through January 2 and during the month of April. The lower Tater Hill road (off Hwy 130) should also continue to be opened seasonally. Closed roads on the property will be marked with signs.

This schedule will allow for visitor access during the peak foliage seasons. This access schedule also accommodates traditional recreational user groups such as hunters, anglers and hikers. Special consideration is also being given to providing year-round access on the main Horespasture Road from Laurel Valley Lodge to Laurel Fork Gap. This will allow better access to the property by visitors.

Additional access may be considered as funding for road maintenance and repair is secured. However, ecological concerns warrant allowing seasonal vehicular access only at this time. The area is highly erodible and road repair is expensive. Annual rainfall on the property is the highest in the east. Year-round access would require much more maintenance activity such as blading and adding gravel. Sedimentation studies imply that frequent road maintenance in the mountains increases sediment sources to the watersheds. Additionally, black bear research studies in the area indicated that vehicle traffic on open roads inside the Horsepasture had a significant negative impact on movements of bears. Black bears avoid open forest access roads. Bears seldom utilize available habitat within 500 meters of logging roads when public access is allowed. Bear avoidance of open roads has been documented throughout the southern Appalachians.

Access through the historic, lower entrance to the Horsepasture Road at Cane Creek was not included in the state's purchase of the property. An alternative access for Jocassee Gorges is planned by renovating the historic Old Horsepasture Road. This road will enter the main Horsepasture Road in the vicinity of the Gant Fields. This will take time and significant funding to accomplish. This access will not be available until renovation is complete and the road meets acceptable standards. Until then, the only vehicle access into the major section of the Horsepasture is through Laurel Valley. From the Laurel Valley entrance to Cane Creek is approximately 16 miles.

The entire Laurel Fork and Jackie's Ridge roads, or portions thereof, may be closed because of the condition of the road and bridges and environmental concerns. Several options are currently being reviewed to address the situation with the Laurel Fork Road, including road relocation, road repair, and closure of the road without repair or relocation.

An angler access at the southern limit of Eastatoee Creek Heritage Preserve (ECHP) is needed. The lower portion of Eastatoee Creek below the gorge area at ECHP maintains an excellent wild rainbow trout population, but reasonable access is not available to anglers. If acquisition efforts afford the potential for better angler access to this stream reach, the SCDNR should pursue development of a small, 10-car parking and access area from Eastatoee Valley or possibly trail access from Highway 178. This would also give "through access" for hikers on the ECHP trail. Until better access can be developed, the primitive camp area on ECHP, and an angler trail should be maintained, if compatible with ECHP management. Development of hiking trails that benefit day users and anglers may also be conducted along streams such as Cane Creek.

B. Road Maintenance

A prioritization of road maintenance and improvements will be developed. Acceptable standards for road conditions will be established and met. Soil scientists and engineers with the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and SCFC will be consulted in this process. Road management schemes should pay attention to the recommendations of Van Lear (1995) in the maintenance of access roads. Installation of sediment traps, broad based dips, water bars, berms, weeps, etc. will be needed to minimize erosion from many main access roads. Road surfacing used should be carefully considered to minimize siltation (e.g. avoid crusher run around spring and stream areas). Maintenance of watershed integrity and high water quality is a management priority. Also, managers must maintain the ability to close roads during extremely wet weather conditions or when roads are in dire need of maintenance. Because of high amounts of rainfall in the Horsepasture, it may be necessary to "daylight" (i.e. cut or trim trees along the road) some roads. Daylighting roads will be a practice considered for application on a site-specific basis where appropriate. Initially, road maintenance will be conducted through a contracting process or cooperative agreement or by SCDNR staff. As management funding for equipment and personnel becomes available, it will be beneficial to hire personnel to conduct routine road maintenance. It is recommended that roads used to access Duke Electric Transmission (DET, a Duke Energy Company) rights-of-way be maintained by a cooperative effort of SCDNR and DEC.

Closed roads should be maintained in a stabilized state consistent with standards for light duty or forest access roads (Swift 1984).

SCDNR will cooperate fully with the SCFC in the suppression of forest fires on Jocassee Gorges. This will include providing access on all roads on the property for fire suppression purposes.

Road Inventory and Repair Process

There are numerous dirt roads on the property ranging from major access roads to closed-out roads from previous forestry work. An inventory of these roads will be completed, and special emphasis will be given to noting any roads that have become destabilized and that are contributing notable quantities of siltation to trout streams. The roads needing stabilization work will be prioritized, and work indicated to provide and maintain stabilization through implementation of Best Management Practices. A team involving SCDNR, NRCS, DPC and other appropriate entities will coordinate this effort. DPC will implement recommended actions (Keowee Toxaway Fishery Resources-Ten Year Work Plan, 1996).