Archive for 2010

If you are planning a winter camping trip to the Oregon Coast this winter for some whale watching, don’t take any firewood from the Rogue Valley.

Instead, buy it locally when you get to the coast.

The problem, explained Sam Chan, the chairman of the Oregon Invasive Species Council, is that moving firewood long distances — generally considered 50 miles or more — increases the risk of introducing new invasive species into an area that could kill native trees.

“You don’t want to take firewood into different climate zones,” he said. “We normally think of firewood as dead because it often comes from thinning dead trees from a forest, but these trees can have insects and diseases in them that can be dormant in the wood.”

The Oregon council is working with the U.S. Forest Service as well as the states of Idaho and Washington and The Nature Conservancy to educate the public about the threat of spreading invasive species by moving firewood long distances.

Although the focus in the “Don’t Move Firewood” campaign is on hauling the wood longer distances, even bringing it into a different climate zone can spread invasive species, he said.

“We’re finding that about 40 percent of campers carry their own firewood into a campground,” he said, adding, “And Oregon is the prime destination for out-of-state campers.”
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As 2010 comes to a close, visits to Great Smoky Mountains National Park are keeping pace with 2009 traffic.

Through November, visits to the 500,000-acre park on the Tennessee-North Carolina border were 1.7 percent ahead of year-before visits to date despite a steep November drop at the Gatlinburg park entrance and a year plagued by road construction.

In 2009, there were nearly 9.5 million visitors to the park.

Through November, visits to Deep Creek near Bryson City were up 3.4 percent over last year, Miller said.

The number of visitors at the Cherokee entrance to the park increased by 4.3 percent through November of this year compared with last year, he said. Visits to Cataloochee were down around 3 percent compared with 2009.

Tourism officials in both Cherokee and Bryson City say 2010 is shaping up to be a good year.

Based on room tax numbers, “We have had a very, very good year,” said Karen Wilmot, executive director of the Swain County Chamber of Commerce.

Cherokee also saw tourism gains during the 2010 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, said Mary Ferguson, director of marketing and promotion for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

“It started out a bit slow in October of 2009, and every month except January we saw an increase,” Ferguson said.

Weather problems closed U.S. 441 — the key corridor through the park — for part of the winter.

“Certainly that (U.S.) 441 corridor through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has a tremendous impact on business in Cherokee,” Ferguson said.

But Miller said those weather closures probably didn’t have a huge effect on the overall number of park visitors.

In November, overall Smokies visits fell 12.4 percent, the Park Service said. The decline was most dramatic at the Gatlinburg entrance, where traffic was off 25.3 percent. The other two main park entrances were also down — 12.3 percent at Townsend and 2.5 percent at Cherokee.
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BENTON – The sky may not be falling for local campgrounds, but the front porches and gravel driveways will have to change, along with business fees. At last week’s Marshall County Fiscal Court meeting, a Tennessee Valley Authority representative attempted to ease concerns over the federally owned company’s proposed changes to commercial recreation agreements.

James Adams, commercial recreation manager for TVA, said proposed lease agreement changes, which will take effect as current ones expire, are designed to increase public recreation opportunities and set a reasonable fee structure. Adams said that while fees for most campgrounds owners will rise, they most likely wouldn’t be as high as some operators fear.

Adams also addressed concerns over permanent sites at campgrounds.

“Length of stay issues is something we’ve had a difficult time with,” Adams said. “We don’t want the campgrounds to be permanent residential. We go through and there’s an LP tank, there’s a mailbox. Those are permanent facilities. We’re trying with these lands TVA is providing to provide a public recreation opportunity. If it becomes just a residence, that’s what TVA doesn’t want.”

A large portion of campground revenues are generated from the permanent residences, but TVA will require campsites to be cleared two weeks out of the year. Past TVA regulations did not allow for permanent residences on campsites, but Adams said it was not previously enforced.

“We will allow a percentage of them to stay 11 and a half months,” Adams said. “We want a percentage of those sites where transients coming through can have a place to stay.”

Plans are currently to allow for 75 percent long-term and 25 percent transient. The percentages are still being considered and will not take effect until 2013.
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