Public comment period open for roadside camping


The U.S. Forest Service is proposing a change in how dispersed roadside camping is managed on the Hoosier National Forest.

Proposed actions, which are mainly along Hickory Ridge Road in northwestern Jackson County, are in response to significant damage to forest resources, inundation of user-created sites within the Pleasant Run Unit along roadways and improper use of dispersed sites, according to a news release from the forest service.

The proposed change would include designating and maintaining the sites that are sustainable for camping and closing those that are unsustainable, which is approximately 20% of the sites across the Pleasant Run Unit.

Designated sites would be made identifiable with signage, rehabilitated and maintained for primitive camping and remain free of charge and available on a first-come, first-served basis. The public would have a better understanding of locations of allowable roadside dispersed camping and proper use.

This proposal first focuses on Hickory Ridge Road, which is highly impacted and the most heavily inundated with dispersed sites within the unit.

Of the 19 sites along Hickory Ridge Road, eight sites would be closed and two sites would be transformed and maintained as small parking areas for trail users. Nine sites would be maintained for camping.

Site 1 would accommodate overflow parking for the popular Hickory Ridge Lookout Tower and Wilderness Trailhead. The site would not be expanded in size from its existing footprint and no trees greater than 3 inches diameter at breast height would be cut. Site 7 would allow for up to four vehicles to park and promote access to an existing trail (Trail 19). The site would not be expanded in size from its existing footprint and no trees greater than 3 inches diameter at breast height would be cut.

Site creep (expansion) for all sites remaining open would be mitigated by installing additional barrier posts to define the parking areas and campsites, and gravel would be used to surface the parking areas and for maintenance of entryways to campsites. In addition, Trail 19 would be redesignated as a hike/bike trail to promote these types of use in the area and to serve as an alternative for hiking to the popular nearby Sycamore Trail. The proposal for Hickory Ridge Road includes higher than 20% of closures due to its heavy inundation of visitor-created sites compared to all other road segments in the unit and across the Hoosier National Forest.

The focal point of this proposal, Hickory Ridge Road in Jackson County, is in Management Area 6.4, defined by the Hoosier National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan for general forest, preservation, limited access, minimum management and allows restoration and maintenance of plant communities. The proposal is consistent with direction in the forest plan for Management Area 6.4:

  • Creates a physical setting that provides an opportunity for solitude and a feeling of closeness to nature
  • Interaction between visitors is low, and there is only subtle evidence of other users
  • Tranquility and solitude are probable experiences
  • Limit public motorized access to those roads on the periphery of the area
  • Use of other forest roads is limited to resource management, administrative use and foot travel
  • Minimize other recreation developments and provide only those that prevent site deterioration or protect the user from health hazards

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