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(Roanoke, VA). The Catawba Mountain Fire Road has been reopened to hikers following major work to improve the road for both emergency vehicles and the hiking public. The gated Fire Road runs parallel to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (A.T.) on National Park Service (NPS) lands northerly from the A.T. Trailhead Parking Area on VA-311, approximately 10 miles north of Salem, VA. It serves as emergency vehicle access for incidents in the McAfee Knob area, a popular panoramic viewpoint and hiking destination, as well as forming a loop hike opportunity with the A.T. The road has been closed to all public use since January 11 for this project.

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Roadwork to Temporarily Close Catawba Mountain Fire Road to Hikers

Update: Due to weather delays, work did not begin on January 17 as planned. Work began February 7, and will continue until March 4.

(Roanoke, VA). Roadwork to improve the Catawba Mountain Fire Road for emergency vehicle use will require the road to be temporarily closed to hikers and all public use beginning Monday, January 17 through February 11. During this road closure, hikers will continue to be able to use the Appalachian National Scenic Trail to access McAfee Knob and beyond. This roadwork is weather-dependent and is being performed during the winter season to minimize disruption to hikers.

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GOOD NEWS!

Beginning June 13. 2020 – The National Park Service reopened access to 27 miles of the Appalachian Trail known as the “Triple Crown”. The “Triple Crown” area includes the AT between VA Route 624 (Newport Road) and VA Route 652 (Mountain Pass Road), including McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs. All sections of RATC maintained AT are now open.

Things to Remember:

Please follow all local health orders, including social distancing and practice Leave No Trace principles. No hand washing facilities exist on the trail, bring hand sanitizer. No restroom facilities exist on the trail or VA 311 McAfee Knob Trailhead Parking Lot

VA 311 McAfee Knob Trailhead Parking Lot is at 100% capacity and parking is not allowed on VA 311 – illegally parked cars may be ticketed and towed

No trail maintenance has been performed on the trail since March 15, 2020.Be prepared for trail obstructions.

Shelters and privies in all sections section remain closed

Plan your Triple Crown hike during the week, if at all possible. Weekend days can be crowded.

Enjoy your hike and BE SAFE!

https://www.ratc.org/membership

As you know, RATC is an active organization devoting countless volunteer hours to maintain and improve our 120 mile section of the Appalachian Trail (AT). Funds generated from membership play an integral part in the club’s ability to provide trail and shelter maintenance. If you are not an RATC member or have not renewed your membership please join or renew your Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club (RATC) membership and support the stewardship of our 120 mile Appalachian Trail (AT) section with both your membership and financial support. Membership information is available at

https://www.ratc.org/membership

Questions? Please contact RATC Membership Coordinator – Steve Urbaniak 540-588-5410 – membership@ratc.org

Highlights of 2019 RATC activities include;
• Resurfaced McAfee Knob/VA 311 Trailhead Parking Lot – $2,000
• Supported the “Virginia Triple Crown” Volunteer Ridgerunner Program – 52 Volunteers/1679 Volunteer Hours
• Contributed $5000 toward purchase of Doc’s Way property to protect McAfee Knob view shed
• Replaced roofs on Catawba, Wilson Creek, Jenny’s Knob, Laurel Creek and Doc’s Knob Shelters – $2500
• Replaced fire rings for 5 Shelters – $1100
• Repaired foot bridges at VA 620, VA 621 and VA 785 – $1000
• Held weekly trail maintenance hikes resulting in 350 steps being installed on Dragon’s Tooth, Sinking Creek (Niday Shelter side), Curry Gap and AT/McAfee Knob.
• 83 RATC Trail Maintainers worked >5500 volunteer hours to maintain our section of the AT
• Assisted Konnarock Crew with War Spur trail relocation
• Performed emergency repairs to Fulhardt Knob Shelter after fire
• Offered 60+ recreational hikes covering a wide range of difficulty and distance

Sandra Marra, President & CEO of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy released the following statement, March 23, 2020;

“In these unprecedented times, I am making an unprecedented request: please stay away from the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). Whether your hike is for a couple of hours or a couple of days, staying away from the Trail minimizes the spread or contraction of COVID-19.

In a time when social distancing is necessary to minimize the spread and contraction of a dangerous virus, many have escaped to nature seeking isolation and unpopulated spaces. On the A.T., however, what they’ve found are trailhead parking lots exceeding their maximum capacities, shelters full of overnight hikers, day hikers using picnic tables and privies, and group trips continuing as planned. Popular spots along the Trail like Blood Mountain in Georgia, the McAfee Knob area in Virginia, and Annapolis Rocks in Maryland have seen day use reach record-breaking levels. Cars line the highways leading to popular day-hiking spots on the Trail. Hiking the A.T. has become, in other words, the opposite of social distancing.

COVID – 19 Information

RATC Members/Supporters

As a result of the COVID -19 pandemic we are all experiencing new and challenging times in our lives and on the Appalachian Trail.

In response to the best guidance available on effective ways to slow transmission the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club (RATC) is suspending all club and trail-related activities for a least the next month to give local communities and the country time to realize the full impact of the virus.

The RATC annual meeting scheduled for March 28, 2020 will be postponed and rescheduled at a future date.

This is a rapidly changing situation and acting with an abundance of caution is the best course of action.

Thank you for your understanding and stay safe!

Jim Beeson
RATC President

The Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club is looking for new volunteers to protect McAfee Knob and Dragons Tooth as Volunteer Ridgerunners. The final Training Day of 2019 will be Saturday, September 7 from 9 am to 4 pm. Please email Kathryn Herndon-Powell or call her at 540-904-4316 to attend.

Volunteer Ridgerunners engage hikers in friendly conversations about the natural and cultural significance of this area and tips on best practices for enjoying the Trail safely and responsibly. They report on trail conditions and perform light trail maintenance to prevent small problems from getting worse–like dismantling illegal fire rings, packing out trash, and blocking social trails to discourage shortcutting. In 2018, 38 Volunteer Ridgerunners logged 1,125 volunteer hours, spoke with over 18,000 visitors and removed 570 gallons of litter!

If you want to join this lively group of dedicated stewards, you must:

–> Join the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club ($20/year)
–> Join the McAfee Knob Task Force Meetup group (free)
–> Commit to volunteer at least one weekend day per month (Fri/Sat/Sun), April through November
–> Attend a Training Day
–> Join an Orientation Hike

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(Note: this blog is based substantially on a filing by the Indian Creek Watershed Association/ICWA to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission/FERC on December 21, 2018 – Accession No. 20181221-5334. As this blog was being posted, several more stories broke regarding likely violations of the Clean Water Act by Mountain Valley Pipeline. In a front-page story on January 23, 2019, the Roanoke Times reported a well-documented request by Roanoke attorneys to the federal Environmental Protection Agency for a criminal investigation of MVP On February 15, 2019 the Roanoke Times confirmed that the there is a federal criminal investigation of MVP underway. And Roberta Kellam, former member of Virginia’s State Water Control Board – charged with enforcing the federal Clean Water Act in the Commonwealth – revealed potential violations by Department of Environmental Quality staff and very questionable behavior by DEQ Director David Paylor. Kellam wrote articles for the Virginia Mercury in December 2018 and January 2019. )

Before approving the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) had to show that it would do no substantial environmental harm, supposedly demonstrated in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) they issued on June 23, 2017 (Accession No. 20170623-4000). In granting the FEIS, the FERC relied on MVP’s stream scour and erosion analyses and plan containing specific information about pipeline construction at stream crossings along the entire pipeline route.

Yet within months of starting the project, MVP submitted a variance request asking permission to change its plan. In doing so, MVP admitted to the FERC that:

MVP runoff a foot deep on Cahas Mountain Road

The [MVP plan] was a theoretical desktop analysis and did not take site specific constructability issues (elevations, terrain, and workspace) into account. During its subsequent field reviews, [MVP] determined that execution of the mitigation measures, as written, would pose increased environmental or landslide risks or be unsafe or impractical due to terrain or geology.”

In response, FERC’s own expert consultant stated that MVP should be required to “provide a site-specific scenario… for each location [where MVP proposed to change its original plan].”

So it is clear that the FERC-approved FEIS does not protect the environment. Despite MVP’s confession, Paul Friedman (FERC Project Manager) or someone at a higher level overruled the FERC’s own expert consultant by

  1. Rejecting the expert’s directive that MVP do a site-specific analysis of every water body crossing on the route where MVP proposed to change its original plan.
  2. Allowing MVP to produce revised plans with lower environmental standards (June 2018).
  3. Failing to provide state environmental agencies or the public an opportunity to comment on revised plans.
  4. Approving, without opportunity for public comment, a project-wide variance (MVP-006) on September 26, 2018 that allows MVP to violate Best Management Practices without oversight.
  5. Producing this hasty variance approval at EXACTLY the same time that MVP announced a lengthy delay and major cost increase. MVP and its investors – not clean water, landowner rights and protection of public lands – seemed to be the core FERC audience for this action.
  6. Hiding the relevant correspondence from the public, the courts and both federal and state regulators.
  7. Trying to hide the name of the FERC Project Manager in documents that ICWA acquired through a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA).

BY KEEPING CORRESPONDENCE SECRET, FERC DENIED INFORMATION THAT WOULD HAVE INFORMED DECISIONS BY FERC COMMISSIONERS, THE FEDERAL 4TH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS AND THE VIRGINIA STATE WATER CONTROL BOARD, among others. Surely it would have mattered if decision makers had Read more »

Many RATC members know Chris Means as RATC’s Membership Coordinator or as an early co-organizer of the Roanoke Outdoor Adventure Club. But there is a lot more to his story!

As Chris will soon be completing a long and successful career at Elizabeth Arden here in the Roanoke Valley, he’s already been thinking about the future. He still enjoys his work but admits that,

Undoubtedly I had the most fun in my working life at a skate/T-shirt shop in the booming metropolis of Charleston, West Virginia.  I of course never made much money at this and eventually moved on, but the atmosphere was fun, my co-workers were incredible, and the job was essentially easy as love mingling with the public. I recall this as the ‘good times’ era in my life.  Fast forward 30 years and I find myself entertaining the possibility of doing something similar, but with more thoughtful motivation. 

The result is Outdrz.net, Chris’s web-driven effort (also found on Facebook) to combine four goals:

  • Create and sell great quality products through his online shop.
  • Get others addicted to the outdoors by any means possible. Vicariously will work, but my aim is to help others find the medicinal value I’ve stumbled onto out there, and if I’m really lucky, ignite a passion for conservation in a few individuals along the way.
  • Generate enough income to keep this little venture solvent, and who knows, maybe even make a buck or two.
  • Contribute a percentage of all profit funds to groups currently doing vital work out there conservation groups and other nonprofits.
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