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. Tennessee and North Carolina plus the Appalachian Trail Conservancy has entered Phase 2 of their respective plans for reopening activity.

TEHCC Hiking Program

  • With Eastman Chemical starting to bring more employees back full-time on-site, the Steering Committee has decided to begin the 2020 hiking program in July.  Watch the Events calendar for outings and read the July newsletter for details.

Appalachian Trail

  • 6/16:  Within the next few weeks, Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) will likely recommend that thru and section hikers can resume their plans – while spreading out along the length of the trail as not all states have opened overnight camping.
  • Many shuttle services are still temporarily halting operation thus do not count on finding a ride to/from the trail.
  • 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  • Pisgah NF has closed through July 8, 2020 or until rescinded A.T. shelters (Stan Murray and Overmountain link to order – latter was already closed due to structural damage). The use of trail shelters on the Tennessee sections of the Appalachian Trail is discouraged.
  • Pisgah (NC) and Cherokee (TN) National Forests are now allowing volunteers with restrictions under Phase 2 to complete maintenance and repair.  TEHCC has interpreted these conditions include limiting crew size to maximum four, only travel with immediate family, not sharing tools, wash hands or use sanitizer frequently especially before eating, and maintaining 6′ social distancing in the field.  Do no maintenance at the closed shelters and privy, including nearby trash pick-up. 
  • Because of the no carpooling, our regular Thursday maintenance crew and Third Saturday Hiking with Tools are still suspended through July.

Other Trails

  • 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.
    • Bays Mountain Park (Kingsport) is open.  Nature Center and some programming will resume in June 1 with limited capacity.  
    • Trails in Cherokee National Forest are open for use, but ranger stations are closed.
    • Trails in TN state parks are open for use, but some park facilities remain closed.
    • Virginia State Parks opened for day-use activities, including trails for hiking, biking and equestrian use. Campgrounds and restrooms opened 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.

Rental Equipment

  • 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.

Area Events

  • 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.
  • Roan Mountain Rhododendron Festival, normally third weekend in June, cancelled for 2020.
  • 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.