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Vandals on Max Patch in NC

This is an awesome location that we hiked up last year on our trip to hot springs. I hate to hear some dumbasses keep tearing it up.


HOT SPRINGS — In his nearly 20 years as a volunteer Appalachian Trail maintainer at Max Patch, a beloved mountain bald in Madison County, Dwayne Stutzman has never seen such brazen, senseless vandalism.

“This is the first time we’ve had any bad situations up there,” said Stutzman, a volunteer trail maintainer with the Carolina Mountain Club, who lives with his wife in Asheville. “We’ve seen a four-wheeler cut a gate occasionally, but we’ve never seen anything like this.”

The destruction, which Stutzman has documented in photos, includes owners of four-wheel drive and all-terrain vehicles cutting down barbed wire fences, knocking over Forest Service posts and signs and driving up the face of the mountaintop bald to gouge out ruts on the summit by performing “doughnuts.”

Tina Tilley, Appalachian District Ranger with the U.S. Forest Service, which manages the remote area together with the National Park Service and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, said rangers have cited some individuals, but the destruction has continued.

“With the weather we’ve been having, it’s causing significant damage on top of the bald,” Tilley said. “Back in December we went and put up a barrier so people knew they weren’t allowed to drive up there. We put in Carsonite posts that said ‘No motorized vehicles beyond this point.’ It was very clear they weren’t supposed to drive up there. They tore those out of the ground.”

Tilley said the property, a high-elevation bald in the Madison County area of Pisgah National Forest, about 60 miles northwest of Asheville, is closed year-round to motorized vehicles. It is a popular recreation area for hikers and campers, with a 4,269-foot elevation providing 360-degree views as far as the Smoky, Roan and Black mountains. The Appalachian Trail cuts a narrow dirt trail across the mountain on its way from Georgia to Maine.

“It doesn’t have the same number of endangered resources as a place like Roan Mountain, but it’s still a natural environment, and with the heavy rains, you get erosion that cuts through there,” Tilley said.

“Resource damage that occurs anywhere on Forest Service land is not good, but when it’s on an iconic location like that, it tugs at the heart strings. It has an effect on a lot of people who enjoy the spectacular views, and access to high elevation balds, which is not that common in the South.”

Stutzman said he and trail co-maintainer, David Kendall, who lives near Max Patch, rebuilt the fences and reset the step-over stile. The vandals tore down their work.

“We restrung the barbed wire, put up the stile again,” said Stutzman, a trail building consultant who is retired as a park designer with the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.

“My co-maintainer told me people had gone through again when it was wet, and snow on the ground. They really tore up the ground, they drove right up the face of Max Patch on the old fall line trail, did doughnuts on top. There were ruts 3-5 inches deep, and lots of mud.”

Last weekend, the trail volunteers returned to check on the bald and walk the Appalachian Trail. At the summit, they noticed several Jeeps and other four-wheel drive vehicles in the Max Patch parking lot below.

They headed down to speak with the drivers, and Stutzman said they saw a Forest Service law enforcement officer speaking with the vehicle owners.

“He had been out there until 2 a.m. (the previous) Saturday morning trying to catch these people, but he didn’t see any illegal activity,” Stutzman said of the officer.

“If it needs to be repaired, I’m going to keep going back there. The beauty of the area draws you up there. It’s just a spectacular place,” he said. “In the summer, it’s just covered in tents. We make sure we mow the grass. We try to make it a place where people can come and enjoy it. It’s just one of those magical places on the AT, a place where people want to go. I just don’t understand vandalism.”

Tilley said the Forest Service will continue to search for the vandals, whose actions are approaching the level of a felony offense. She said it is “a fairly significant number of people” who are apparently local, very familiar with the area and comfortable driving the twisty, remote forest roads after dark, when most day-use visitors have left.

Tilley said the agency, which has an extremely small staff in relation to the million acres of forest land in Western North Carolina, is working on getting a contract to install a more substantial barrier to motor vehicles, and is also asking for the public’s help in catching the criminals.

“The public has been great in informing us. If you can write down a license plate number, that’s just as good as our officers,” Tilley said.

“It’s up to us all to protect these valuable resources. The more people who can help us by abiding by the rules, then the more we can all enjoy the forest.”

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Evidentally a group of atvs did it again up on max patch. The USFS had planned a work day with a group from NC4x4 and a local atv club, but the cancelled it due to the recent vandalism.
I almost think its safe to say that with the massive boom of the UTV alot more public lands will get closed. 4wheelers are single handily responsible for the seasonal close of local atv trails. Every little mud hole they can find they will dig it out to hell and back.
I don't really get it..... there are public lands designated for different uses for a reason. ATV use areas should be available to be used on ATV's (of all types IMO) and shouldn't need such strict maintenance. If they get fawkered up, who cares??? Provide proper erosion control to keep the Samuels of the world happy and wheel on.

The places that are not for ATV use, you should get the fawk shat fined out of you for being on.

Also, all of the loop hole trails should be better marked if they are legal to be on. If they are not legal to be on then you should get fined for being on them.

I think there are too many "iffy" public trails for the reason that the .gov is scared of them getting torn up. If you can't enjoy the land because it's getting rode on, go somewhere the fawk else. There are 100X more hiking/horse/bike/etc. trails in the area.

And.....rant off.