US Forest Service partners make strides in decade-old trail maintenance project

Mount Mitchell and Higgins Bald Trails improved by extra funding

ASHEVILLE, NC (January 27, 2022) — American Conservation Experience (ACE) crew members, with support from North Carolina High Peaks Trail Association (NCHPTA) and National Forests in North Carolina (NFINC), have completed over 1,110 hours of trail maintenance on Mount Mitchell and Higgins Bald Trails, wrapping up a decade of deferred maintenance for two of the most heavily trafficked trails in North Carolina.

Crew members Albert Chizmar, Max Watson, Stephanie Wilhelm, Becca Grosman, Brian Sullivan, Augustus Birky, John Rust and Lucy Kramer spent six weeks performing deferred maintenance on the lower 3 miles of the Mount Mitchell Trail and 1.2 miles of the Higgins Bald Trail. The crew improved 2 miles of trails, which included brushing, constructing 3 rock steps, hardening trail sections, improving over 1 mile of tread, constructing 18 drainage features, installing 31 grade dips, and improving or maintaining 28 existing drainage structures.

“This partnership between NCHPTA and ACE represents the significant improvements that can be made to our public lands and trails through community involvement and shared stewardship,” said Lindsey Nelson, AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer and partner coordinator.

Basic maintenance of the Mount Mitchell Trail and Higgins Bald Trail has been the focus of North Carolina High Peaks Trail Association for over a decade. However, some maintenance projects such as cleaning waterbars and re-establishing tread were deferred due to the cost of materials and labor needed. Thanks to $20,000 from the Great American Outdoor Act’s (GAOA) National Parks and Public Lands Legacy Restoration Fund, NCHPTA and their partners at ACE and National Forests in North Carolina were able to organize and complete the deferred maintenance.

“Thanks to the GAOA, ACE was able to bring the trail back up to standards and allowed High Peaks to jump ahead on the relentless maintenance schedule,” said Jake Blood, NC High Peaks board member and projects manager.

The GAOA funded project focusing on the lower section of Mount Mitchell Trail and Higgins Bald Trail converged with another NCHPTA trail project covering the .5-mile middle section and upper 2.5 miles of the Mount Mitchell Trail. Most recently, project funding for the middle and upper sections of Mount Mitchell Trail was provided by a $65,000 grant from the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) for rerouting and maintenance, this project’s fourth RTP grant to date.

GAOA was signed into law in 2020 to address the deferred maintenance needs of federal land management agencies. GAOA’s Restoration Fund provides up to $285 million annually for five years to address U.S. Forest Service projects.

RTP, an assistance program of the Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), provides funds to States for trail and trail-related facility development and maintenance.

For more information on trail projects or to get involved, visit

An ACE crew member improving trail conditions along the Mt. Mitchell Trail.

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