Forest Service seeks public input on ways to protect Red River Gorge

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDKY) – Soil erosion, wildfires, trash along the trails. Just some of the problems stemming from an increase of visitors to Red River Gorge.

While hiking has become a good, socially distant activity this year, officials with the US Forest Service have a new problem on their hands.

“We got some nice views from the top of the Natural Bridge. You know, just enjoying God’s creation,” visitor Tyler Zimske said.

Like many others in 2020, Tyler and Emily Zimske were tired of being cooped up in the house.

“It was crazy. There were quite a few people up there. Everyone was pretty socially distanced though and very respectful on our way up and down,” Zimske said.

The Red River Gorge has become an even more popular outdoor activity this year. So much so, officials with the Daniel Boone National Forest held a virtual meeting Tuesday to address a few new issues.

“This picture was taken circa 2007, somewhere around there. During our 2020 inventory, this is what the campsite looks like today,” said Eric Dodd with the Daniel Boone National Forest.

With the national forest organization, Dodd, says they’re seeing people create their own campsites and trails. He says this leads to problems like soil erosion and even forest fires.

“As designated parking fills up, visitors often park on roads, impeding traffic and causing safety hazards,” Dodd said.

The plan is to create 350 campsites, resize the trail system and create new parking areas. Preserving the natural landscape and making it safe and inviting for all visitors.

Officials with the Forest Service are waiting for more feedback from their stakeholders before implementing changes.

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