Knobstone Trail Logging in Clark State Forest
The Knobstone Trail (KT) is Indiana’s longest foot trail, approximately 58-miles in length running from Jackson-Washington State Forest in the north through Elk Creek Public Fishing Area and terminating in Clark State Forest in the south. With its southern most trailhead approximately 10 miles north of Louisville, and comparable in terrain to the Appalachian Trail, the KT provides one of the best hiking opportunities in the Kentuckiana region. The KT is designated and maintained strictly for hiking and camping. Because of erosion, damage to structures, and the safety of hikers – horses, bicycles, and motorized vehicles are not permitted on the trail.
Unfortunately, the KT did not escape the March 2, 2012 tornado without damage. Closures of the KT detailed on the Indiana Department of Natural Resouces’s (IDNR) Division of Recreation’s website for the KT announces the trail is closed “between the 4 mile marker (MM) to the 9MM. This is the area between the Pixley Knob Road and Bartle Knob Road in Clark State Forest.” The Division’s KT site also announces “Jackson Road, Knobstone Trail Jackson Road Trailhead, and Mountain Grove Loop Horse trail are also closed until further notice.”
It is understandable that IDNR would be required to close sections of the KT for trail and timber stand maintenance in order to guarantee the safety of the public. But, a public information request revealed that the Indiana Division of Forestry has utilized the damage incurred at Clark State Forest surrounding the KT to enact “emergency” discretion to contract extensive timber harvesting of nearly 1,300 acres surrounding the KT.
Because of the current logging activities along the KT, the historic southern trailhead on Wilson Switch Road hasbeen permanently closed. The IDNR Division of Outdoor Recreation website states, “ (the) Deam Lake Trailhead is located at the end of Flower Gap Road continue into the forest until you see the trailhead sign on your right.” The Division’s website does provide maps of the re-routes and closed sections of the KT. But, for many, who have utilizedthe Wilson Switch Road trailhead for decades, the re-route of the southern trailhead of the KT will eliminate access for a brief hike to a beautiful vista of Deam Lake.
Additionally, in May, the Indiana Division of Forestry released three Draft Resource Management Guides for an additional 375 acres of Clark State Forest, which the KT traverses. Each of these Draft Forest Management Plans proposes Road Work, a Timber Sale, and Timber Stand Improvement as the prescribed activities for these three tracts, likely causing additional closures and re-routes of the KT for years to come.
The emergency and non-emergency commercial timber harvesting along the KT will permanently alter the quality of the ecosystem and the traditional route of the trail, with minimal opportunity for public input. Therefore, in October, KAVAS submitted comments to the Indiana Division of Forestry on the three Draft Forest Management Plans for blocks of Clark State Forest impacting the KT which requested the Division hold educational public meetings on their long-term plans for timber harvests, KT closures and re-routes, as well as receive additional public comments. At the very least, KAVAS believes any resource management guide for Clark State Forest should require a minimum 50-foot buffer zone between any timber harvest activities and the existing route of the KT and all waters of the United States.