FATS is still under official closure by the USFS due to wet trail conditions. There has been approximately 5 inches of rain in the month of January alone and the rain continues to cycle through keeping groundwater high and seeps active along the trails. This coupled with dormant foliage and cooler temperatures has slowed the drying time considerably. Stay tuned for updates. Please do not access the closed trails. Thank you!
Great news! The trails have been assessed again and the USFS is officially opening FATS as of Wednesday, February 6th. There are still some mucky/seepy spots so please ride in the center of the trail to avoid trail widening. There are also some trees down so please be aware.
Hopefully groundwater is down enough that we will be back to normal, staying off the trails for 48 hours or so, after rain.
During the trail assessments it has been observed that most trail users have respected the closure and stayed off the trails. Thank you so much for being patient and helping protect this resource!
Light rain a couple of days ago coupled with a fast moving system that dumped rain last night has left the trails wet. Please give at least 48 hours for the trails to dry out. Help us protect this resource! Thank you!
Good news and bad news! The good news is that after initial assessment it appears that FATS did not sustain the serious tornado damage that the east side of Woodlawn Road sustained.
The bad news is that the last round of rain was enough to bolster the groundwater supply. There are a lot of seeps and standing water and it will be at least two or three days (with no rain) before the trails dry out. So FATS will remain under official closure for a while longer.
With the trails still too wet but the temps gettting warmer, some people will feel the temptation to access FATS even though it is still under official USFS closure. The main focus, of course, is protecting the resource but we did reach out to the USFS for details on the consequences of accessing the trails while they are under official closure. We published this piece in our most recent newsletter, check it out.
FATS TRAIL CLOSURES - ENFORCEMENT
An official wet trails policy was established for FATS after a particularly rainy 2013. The red gates at the south and north trailheads were put in place in summer of 2014 by the USFS with help from SORBAcsra. Prior to that time we tried to appeal to the masses to stay off the trails when they were wet to avoid damaging them and in 2013 (one of the rainiest after years of drought) it was apparent that the resource needed to be protected with stronger measures. Too many people were simply unaware or did not care if the trails were too wet to ride. We never actually knew all the details behind what happens when a person accesses a trail that has been officially closed, but we now have the answer provided by our good partner and FATS land manager the USFS.
A person accessing a closed trail (biker, hiker, runner, etc) is in violation of 36CFR261.58(b) - the associated fine would be $80.00, $50 for the fine and $30 processing fee. If it is determined that a person was actually causing specific resource damage to the trail we could actually issue violation 36CFR261.53(f) with the total payment being $230.00, $200 for the fine and $30 processing fee. The US Federal Court office that services our area is located in Greenville SC. If an individual is being very combative or some other over the top situation happen all of our Forest Protection Officers can check a box on an issued violation notice which would have the court automatically issue a mandatory court appearance. This would mean a court ordered trip to Greenville at the appointed time, thus it isn’t like a going to a courthouse in Augusta or Aiken.
If a person that is issued a violation does not pay the collateral due amount by the due date, or fail to appear in court at the scheduled date, the US District Court may issue a summons ordering a court appearance or issue a bench warrant for an arrest. Therefore just going out to ride a closed trail out of a matter of frustration because the trail is closed or simply because someone may think they can just get away with it can result in real ramifications if caught. On the Long Cane Ranger District we have one Law Enforcement Officer, and two Forest Protection Officers. The Forest Protection Officers don’t have the typical law enforcement flashing light bar on top of their vehicle, so if people are just watching out for a typical law enforcement vehicle they may be surprised if issued a violation. With regard to other issues that can take place on the forest such as drugs, illegal dumping of trash, intoxicated driving, and other illegal activities we also have SC Department of Natural Resources and County Sheriff departments patrolling the area. It should also be mentioned that our USFS Law Enforcement can also make arrest should a situation merit that level of response. Forest Protection Officers can issue official warning and violation notices, but cannot make arrests; however they can call someone who can - to include the County Sheriff departments.
FATS is still under official USFS closure due to wet trails. The good news is that the system predicted to roll through on Sunday broke up before it made it to Augusta so no additional rain. Watch for updates, we will be working with the USFS to monitor trail conditions.
Northern and southern trails were checked late yesterday. Tread is in great shape with just a few wet/mucky spots here and there. Good to go for riding. Although there was 4 hours of soaking rain and cooler temperatures, the trees and plants absorbed the rainwater quickly.
During this time of year forward until fall, waiting 24 hours after periodic rainfall should be good. We will keep posting trail conditions here, on Twitter and on Facebook.
Thank you for helping keep this resource in good condition by not riding wet trails!
This is the 3rd bout of rain in 7 days (Tuesday, Friday and now today). Fortunately these are soaking rains lasting a couple of hours or more rather than torrential downpours that can cause a lot of trail erosion even with no traffic on the trails.
Please do not use the trails when they are wet, more rain is predicted for tomorrow. Stay tuned for updates.
FATS is still under temporary closure by the USFS, additional rain on Friday (2 bouts) and more rain on Sunday has kept the trails from drying out. The predictions are for drier days ahead, stay tuned for updates!