September 19, 2012
We have just gotten the final ruling from the federal court that upheld the US Forest Service’s decision to permanently close the Tellico trails. Its over…
Some of you have ridden the trails in Tellico and many of you have heard of them. I began riding there in 1994. Many 4WD events were held there each year and people would travel from Canada and western USA to see this special place.
Magazine editors would write articles about the more challenging trails. Trails like Helicopter Pad, School Bus, Slickrock, and Lower 2 got people excited. But, there were plenty of trails for the newbies too. Jeep Jamborees were held here and many new Jeepers learned how to drive on the easier Tellico trails.
The irony here is that this property was privately held by a logging company prior to US Forest Service ownership. The land was heavily logged and then sold. The Southern 4WD Association was formed in 1987 to partner with the US Forest Service to create and maintain the 39 mile trail system. Many old logging roads were closed, but the best routes were designated as official trails.
The SFWDA founders were certified by the USFS to operate heavy equipment and Southern (SFWDA) bought its own heavy equipment to perform volunteer trail maintenance. Volunteers came out for regular work days and hundreds of thousands of dollars were donated in labor and material over the years. We did our part.
The trails in Tellico were never a high priority for the Rangers on the Nantahala Forest. They didn’t even apply for the available federal RTP funds very often. Money was left on the table.
The USFS land managers didn’t ride the trails or understand why we enjoyed the area. There was no active trail monitoring or management. The US Forest Service literally didn’t care.
And, to be fair, the rougher the trails got, the more the Jeepers enjoyed them.
But, eventually the anti-access lawyers found a new cause and began another round of lawsuits and fundraising. In the end, they get bragging rights and we’ve lost another piece of paradise.
Tellico was a fantastic place and holds a special place in many hearts. I’ll always treasure the memories.