NASHVILLE – Following months of restoration of damaged roads and trails in Franklin State Forest, the Forest will re-open three roads to motorized vehicles on Jan. 4, 2024.
In March of 2023, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry instituted temporary restrictions to assess the damage caused by off-road vehicles driven in restricted areas. This practice jeopardized the health of the forest and the safety and welfare of visitors.
“As stewards of Tennessee’s land and forests, we are dedicated to maintaining a balance among sustainable forestry practices, timber production, and recreational use,” State Forester David Arnold said. “The temporary restrictions provided our staff time to address ecological, viewshed, and safety concerns caused by motorized vehicle use, particularly in non-designated areas of Franklin State Forest. We remain committed to reversing this damage, restoring the forest, and providing multiple recreation use opportunities to Tennessee residents and visitors.”
The Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry has now completed rehabilitation of more than 23 miles in Franklin State Forest, which is located in Franklin and Marion Counties. Workers restored primary forest roads, drained and filled mudholes, sowed seed, and installed cables and gates to designate closed areas.
An updated Franklin State Forest Recreation Use map (link) shows 30.7 miles of hiking (foot traffic only) trails, 11.5 miles of non-motorized (hiking, biking, horseback riding) use on unpaved roads, and 6.1 miles of motorized traffic on designated unpaved forest roads.
Newly designated motorized use is accessible from the parking lot off State Highway 156 adjacent to the old fire tower. It includes Brewer Bypass to and along junctions with Sweden Cove Overlook Road and Turkey Hunters Road, terminating at the Perimeter Trail. The Perimeter Trail is foot traffic only, so this route does not create a loop. Activity is restricted to daylight hours and motorized use in non-designated areas is prohibited. Motorized use is limited to vehicles and operators that are in compliance with Tennessee laws.
Tampering with posted signs or barricades, traveling on closed or restricted use roads, driving around or through signs or barricades, and traveling off designated roads is a Class A misdemeanor. Violators will be cited.
In all other state forests, the use of motorcycles, trail bikes, all-terrain vehicles, bicycles and other off-road vehicles in any area of the state forest is strictly prohibited, except on designated roads or trails maintained by the Division of Forestry. Damage to forest resources from motorized vehicles is not limited to Franklin State Forest, and the Division is monitoring and assessing measures to correct abuses across the state forest system, which includes 15 state forests totaling 168,000 acres.