Current impact of COVID-19 on TEHCC and regional activities

Aligning with guidance from our partner organizations and employer, the following actions are being taken in response to the current situation for the coronavirus.  If the principles of social distancing are being properly employed, the risk of contracting COVID-19 is still considered to be low in our region. However, further adjustments will be made as the club leadership learns more about the continuing impact.

  • 5/27: No hikes will be scheduled until Eastman Chemical starts the process of reintegrating employees working from home back into full-time presence on-site.  A recent announcement has been made that first business personnel will be allowed on-site starting June 10th; however, the Steering Committee will need to decide if conditions are right.  Present hope is that the 2020 hiking program can commence later this year.  Check the Events calendar for outings once this restriction has been lifted.
  • Hot Springs, NC Trailfest 2020 (formerly April 24-26) has been cancelled.
  • Erwin, TN Great Outdoors Festival (formerly May 2) has been cancelled.
  • Roan Mountain, TN Hiker Palooza (formerly May 8-10) has been postponed.
  • Damascus, VA Trail Days 2020 (formerly May 15-17) has been cancelled.
  • 5/7: Roan Mountain Rhododendron Festival, normally third weekend in June, cancelled for 2020.
  • Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) requested that thru and section hikers suspend their plans in case of exposure while on the trail.  Most shuttle services have temporarily halted operation thus do not count on finding a ride.
  • As of 5/22, Cherokee (TN) and Pisgah (NC) National Forests reopened all A.T. trailheads including Hampton blue blaze and Dennis Cove accessing Laurel Fall, Osborne Farm/Cross Mountain, and Roan Mountain/Carvers Gap.
  • Pisgah NF has closed through August 13, 2020 or until rescinded the Roan Mountain area including A.T. shelters (Stan Murray and Overmountain – latter was already closed due to structural damage). The use of trail shelters on the Tennessee sections of the Appalachian Trail is discouraged.
  • Tennessee and Virginia have begun phased reopening.
  • Eastman Recreation says club rental backpacking and camping equipment may now be checked out from Building 310. Their open hours have been reduced to 7:30am to 4pm weekdays.
  • Present understanding is that day hikers are allowed on area trails but keeping group size to a minimum with less carpooling.  Take hand sanitizer to use liberally.
    • 5/30: Bays Mountain Park (Kingsport) is open for trail use.  Nature Center and some programming will resume Monday, June 1 with limited capacity.
    • Appalachian Trail Conservancy is still stating to stay off the A.T. The issue is avoiding congested parking areas such as Carvers Gap/Roan Mountain or Hampton blue blaze/Laurel Falls.  
    • Trails in Cherokee National Forest are open for use, but ranger stations are closed.
    • Trails in TN state parks are open for use (Rocky Fork reopened May 4th, Warriors Path now allows overnights) , but most park facilities remain closed. Some hosted events will restart in June.
    • Virginia State Parks opened for day-use activities on May 21, including trails for hiking, biking and equestrian use. Campgrounds and restrooms are opening for Memorial Day weekend, but picnic shelters are staying closed. Bring cash for entrance fees which are being collected.
  • In all cases, maintain social distancing of at least six feet. If parking area is full, head somewhere else. There are much lesser used access points and trails in the region.
  • 2020 Konnarock Crew has been cancelled.  (June dates for TEHCC.)
  • Regular Thursday maintenance crew and Third Saturday Hiking with Tools have been suspended until guidance changes from the ATC.
  • 5/27:  Pisgah (NC) and Cherokee (TN) National Forests are now allowing volunteers with restrictions under Phase 1 to complete site assessments, trash pickup, and minor maintenance and repair.  These conditions include limiting group size to maximum three, only travel with immediate family, not sharing tools, and maintaining 6′ social distancing.  Do no maintenance at the closed shelters, including trash pick-up. 
  • Invasive Species event to Devils Creek Gap planned for April 25th was cancelled. We’ll lose ground on the treatment.
  • Roughly every two weeks, ATC is hosting a teleconference to update the clubs.
  • Spring Dinner meeting (was 4/17 then 5/8) has been cancelled. Awards and recognition will be presented to our Fall Dinner (details to be decided during the summer).
  • Tuesday Evenings: Johnson City Roll Practice are suspended as Freedom Hall Pool is closed.
  • Thursday Evenings: Kayak Sessions are not being held as Kingsport Aquatic Center is also closed until further notice.
  • USFS has reopened most river launch sites.  Outfitters are offering trips with limited number of same family in each raft.

Reference Resources (links may not function from Eastman network)

ATC’s Guidance to Hikers

ATC’s Letter to Long-Distance Hikers 

ATC’s Current guidance to Volunteers 

ATC’s Notice on decisions related to Visitor Centers and Ridgerunners