Visitor numbers soaring; Public input sought on future of Red River Gorge

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WINCHESTER, Ky. (WTVQ) – Residents, frequent users, occasional visitors and others have an opportunity to help shape the future of the Red River Gorge.

The Daniel Boone National Forest has begun a public planning process to help shape the future of the popular hiking, outdoors tourist destination.

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Changes that have occurred in the area since the last public planning process in 2008 have highlighted the need for renewed attention to management of the Gorge.

Many of these challenges were brought into sharp relief by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Visitation to the Red River Gorge is increasing at a much faster rate than anticipated as more and more new visitors make their way to the Gorge.

“Now is the time to work through additional management actions that strike a careful balance between preserving visitor experience and mitigating impacts on special places like the Red River Gorge,” Tim Eling, staff officer with the Forest Service said in a statement.

The 2008 Limits of Acceptable Change document guides management in the Red River Gorge by describing an acceptable future condition for the Gorge and then creating a series of management actions to guide the area towards that future.

Thresholds for change were established in order to gauge managers’ success at guiding the Gorge to this future condition. When these thresholds were surpassed, as has happened recently, it triggers additional collaborative problem-solving, Eling explained.

“One aspect of this planning process will be to comply with congressional direction to establish a Comprehensive River Management Plan (CRMP) for the Wild and Scenic Red River. The Red River CRMP will address the current status of river resources, outline goals and desired conditions, determine user capacities, and create a monitoring strategy and plan forward,” he said.

“The popularity of recreation in this region has grown much faster than our agency anticipated and, with that growth, comes tremendous opportunity and significant challenges,” said Jon Kazmierski, Cumberland District Ranger. “The goal of this new round of planning is to examine the management tools that are available and apply them in a way that ensures the public’s safety and enjoyment of their national forest while protecting the character and resources of the Red River Gorge that draw people to the area and make it so unique.”

The public is invited to join the USDA Forest Service at a virtual public meeting on Tuesday November 10, 2020 from 5-6:30 p.m. to discuss these upcoming management actions.

Meeting information as well as more details about this process are available on https://www.fs.usda.gov/dbnf and www.facebook.com/danielboonenf.