NEBO, NC – Linville Gorge Wilderness is now a more beautiful place thanks to the efforts of 85 volunteers who worked over 1,800 hours under the lead of Wild South to remove nearly 150 tires from the deep gorge.
In the 1970s a large flood washed the tires down into the Linville Gorge Wilderness from a business north of the area. Since that time, tires have been a common site along the Linville River.
With only the traditional tools available to them in the Wilderness, a huge volunteer effort has been quietly underway over the past year. Volunteers gathered tires, one-by-one, and steadily moved them to the Wilderness boundary. Avoiding punishing trails like Pinch-In was a priority to minimize risk to volunteers.
“Initially volunteers were carrying tires up the 1,500-ft sides of the deep gorge, but as they discovered dozens more tires along the riverbank it became clear they would need a different plan,” explained Kevin Massey, Executive Director of Wild South, and chief tire removal coordinator. “With help from private landowners, a more feasible route was devised.”
A hike up the Pinch-In trail in the Linville Gorge Wilderness is a true test of human endurance. For even the experienced hiker, a hike up Pinch-In is a challenge. From the wild and cold Linville River, the trail climbs nearly 1,500 feet out of the sheltered gorge onto the cliffs above. Hikers stopping to catch their breath and re-hydrate, a constant need on the exposed trail, are rewarded with sweeping views of the heart of the Linville Gorge Wilderness. Now imagine hiking up this trail with a 50-pound tire strapped to your back.
Volunteers spent over a year carrying tires for miles through the gorge in relays, eventually accumulating a cache of 148 tires plus other trash near the Wilderness boundary. Recently the final effort was made to carry all out across private land to a point accessible by a truck provided by the US Forest Service to haul the tires to a recycling facility. This herculean effort is an example of the Forest Service, partner, and volunteer relationships that are critical to managing public lands and preserving Wilderness experiences for future generations.
The Forest Service thanks the public and partners who are critical to protecting the Linville Gorge Wilderness through clean ups, trail work, and education. Visitors benefit from the hard work of a caring and dedicated community of volunteers as well as partners such as Wild South, Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards, Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail, and Carolina Climbers Coalition.
The 1964 Wilderness Act, in which congress designated Linville Gorge as a Wilderness, states: “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” The Wilderness Act requires management of human-caused impacts and protection of the area's wilderness character to insure that it is “unimpaired for the future use and enjoyment as wilderness.” The use of motorized equipment and mechanical transport is prohibited except for emergencies involving public health and safety.