U.S. Forest Service Evaluates Change in ‘Visitor Use’ at Lake Chinnabee Campground and Recreation Area

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The Lake Chinnabee Campground in Autumn: Glynn Wilson

By Glynn Wilson

The U.S. Forest Service is considering changing the “recreation use” for one of the best little campgrounds in the national forests in Alabama, according to a press release we just received on Sunday.

The Lake Chinnabee Recreation Area and Campground remains closed due to flooding from heavy rains back in May, along with Lakeshore Trail and a small section of the Chinnabee Silent Trail, all located just three miles down the mountain from the highest point in Alabama, Mt. Cheaha State Park State in the Talladega National Forest.

According to the press release sent out via e-mail, there is no indication of what the proposed change in use might be, although there will apparently be a public comment period in which the public can let their views be known.

Forest Supervisor Steve Lohr, who went on leave for four months after I confronted him with a video camera rolling at a public meeting on a proposal to open a huge swath of the Talladega National Forest to gas drilling with the possibility of fracking, has issued a closure order of the Lake Chinnabee Recreation Area and Campground through November 30, 2013 “to assess safety concerns and a possible change of visitor use.”

The Talladega Ranger District will supposedly complete an “environmental analysis to determine whether we can mitigate the safety risks to the public since the recent flood event occurred.”

According to Lohr, the Forest Service “may need to change the recreation use at Lake Chinnabee since portions of the area, particularly the camping area, are within known floodplains.”

Let’s just hope this proposed change in use does not include a natural gas well. If so there will be protests.

“Our goal is to work closely with members of the public to hear their concerns about Lake Chinnabee,” Gloria Nielsen, district ranger for the Talladega District, said. “Visitor safety is always our top priority; therefore, we are asking the public to be patient as we work through the analysis process. Please check our Website and local newspapers for announcements on when the comment period will open.”

You would be better off to check this news site, since this is one of my favorite places in my home state of Alabama and I will be keeping up closely with any developments related to it. A team of photographers will be hiking in to the campground this week to document the damage. Check back soon for updates. Meanwhile, watch a video we produced on the campground here.

Federal Recreation Areas Back Open As Government Shutdown Ends

Also, according to another news release from the Forest Service, recreational facilities in the National Forests in Alabama are beginning to reopen after employees began returning to work on Thursday, October 17 when Congress ended a 16 day government shutdown.

“We are very pleased to be back at work and reopen these facilities that people enjoy every day on the National Forests in Alabama,” Forest Supervisor Steve Lohr said. “We hope everyone will be patient with us as we safely resume normal operations.”

Forest employees are working not only to clean and evaluate the safety of each facility and site, but also to repair any vandalism or resource damage that may have occurred during the shutdown.

“It took us a few days to close all of our facilities, so it may take us the same for reopening,” Lohr said. “We look forward to making all of our programs and activities available to the public as soon as possible.”

Recreation sites on the Bankhead, Conecuh, Talladega and Tuskegee National Forests have reopened.

The agency advised the public to check the Know Before You Go Website for updates on recreation site closures and safety alerts before traveling to places on public, federal land.

© 2013, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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