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TVA officials will likely close the property near the Barton Springs Bridge on Lyndell Bell Road to horseback riding in the coming months, unless area planners can come up with a way to halt the environmental damage reportedly caused by the riding.
TVA spokesman Bill Sitton said that a recent land assessment, which monitors the proper uses of TVA property, observed about 7 ½ miles of unsanctioned trails on the 100-150 acres set aside for natural resource retention. Those trails, according to TVA, are causing some serious environmental damage.
“Some of the trails are causing pretty severe environmental damage,” Sitton said.
According to the TVA, riding in the area is currently permitted, but the agency is concerned about erosion from the volume of traffic.
At the request of local officials, the TVA provided a local riding group and the South Central Tennessee Development District an opportunity to develop a plan by the end of August that would allow further riding without allowing additional damage the property.
“The TVA is giving them till the end of August to come back with a plan for us to get the trails up to the level where [riding] is not causing environmental damage and to maintain [the trails that are already in place],” Sitton said.
The network of trails that crisscross the area in many areas have worn deep into the hilly terrain, six-feet deep in places.
According to TVA environmentalist Frank Hill, the damage is caused by the “scooping” by the horses’ hooves that loosens rather than pack the soil. Due to the trails’ grade, rainwater easily washes downstream the loosened soil.
The resulting erosion bares forest root systems that will result in the loss of the trees.
According to TVA, “Where soil erosion or significant vegetation loss has occurred, natural storm water runoff patterns have changed, carrying additional sediment into Normandy Reservoir.”
The added silt further reduces reservoir water quality.
“It’s the intensity [of the riding] that is causing the problem,” Hill said.
Read the full story in this week’s (July 25) print edition of the Manchester Times.