Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Carvins Cove trails need help

Mark Taylor Mark Taylor is outdoors editor at The Roanoke Times.



Mark Taylor

Outdoors coverage

The Wild Life blog

Spring is a busy trail-use season, but the routes on a popular recreation area near Roanoke will remain off limits for the foreseeable future.

Roanoke officials shut down the trails at Carvins Cove Natural Reserve after a February brush fire and wind storm created potentially unsafe conditions.

The city and volunteer leaders are huddling to develop a plan of attack to reopen the trails, said Michael Clark, superintendant of recreation for the Roanoke Department of Parks and Recreation.

Clark said experts from the Virginia Department of Forestry toured the area early last week to survey the damage.

Friday, Clark himself took to the trails on a mountain bike, along with Roanoke Greenways coordinator Liz Belcher and longtime trail work volunteer Brian Batteiger.

Clark headed up the Hi-Dee-Hoe trail, a tough enough climb when it's open and downright brutal when you frequently have to dismount your bike to hurdle fallen trees.

And fallen trees were plenty.

"On the four or five trails I went on that day, there were upwards of 20 trees down," said Clark, adding that most of the damage seemed to be from high winds and not the fire that burned approximately 4,000 acres at the cove.

Not all trees were blown completely over. In some cases they rest precipitously in the branches of others.

Other worrisome hazards are jagged stumps, which could seriously injure a cyclist who crashes.

In addition to damage caused by the fire and wind, fire crews also altered the environment with the fire lines that helped contain the blaze.

Clark said he plans to meet with Belcher and Batteiger again today to map out a plan. He said he hopes to host a public planning meeting for volunteers within the next week.

Volunteers are eager to get rolling, which is no surprise considering the huge contribution they've already made in building and maintaining trails at Carvins Cove.

"We've been bombarded with calls from folks wanting to help, to volunteer," Clark said.

Steve Hetherington is among those eager to get to work. Not only is he a rider, but his Just the Right Gear bike shop is near the area's Bennett Springs entrance.

"There's definitely been a drop in traffic," said Hetherington, whose shop provides day use passes for the area. "On a pretty Saturday we might get 50 to 100 people through here.

"For a lot of people, [riding] is part of their well-being."

When volunteers do get to work, they should be able to handle most of the effort, Clark said.

"But there are some big trees," he said. "The lion's share we can probably take care of with volunteers.

"Some, we're going to leave to the professionals."

Those professionals will be from the Park Division's Urban Forestry Section, which handles tree issues within the city.

Clark said he couldn't speculate on a date by which the trails could be reopened.

Volunteers can sign up to help and learn about planned work days through the Valley Shared Trails Network Internet site (vast-network.org).

While the trails are closed, recreation at Carvins Cove reservoir is open, but with limitations because of the low water, which is roughly 14 feet below full pool.

"The boat ramp is completely out of the water," said Bryan Thompson, one of the area's the security patrollers.

The fishing piers are also high and dry.

Boating is allowed -- if you can carry your boat to the water.

"We've had a few kayakers out there, but it's been pretty quiet," Thompson said.

Shore fishing is allowed and because of the exposed shoreline, access is excellent. Shore anglers who are willing to put in some effort, especially, can get to areas that won't see much fishing pressure while water levels are down.

Bass tournaments

John Crews of Salem finished 44th in this past week's Bassmaster Elite Series tournament at the Harris Chain of Lakes in Florida.

After two tournaments Crews is tied for 30th in the circuit's Angler of the Year standings.

On the local front, Region 4 of the Bassmaster Federation Nation and Taylor Masonic Lodge are hosting the Fishing for a Cure open tournament at Claytor Lake on Friday.

The tournament will feature a 70 percent payout and numerous raffles, with proceeds after the payout donated to the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life.

The entry fee is $100 per team, with an optional lunker pot fee of $10. Registration starts at 5:30 a.m. at Claytor Lake State Park.

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