Forest Service proposes changes to dispersed camping for Hickory Ridge Road area sites

BEDFORD – The Forest Service is proposing a change in how dispersed roadside camping is managed in the Hoosier National Forest. Proposed actions are in response to significant damage to forest resources, inundation of user-created sites within the Pleasant Run Unit (PRU) along roadways, and improper use of dispersed sites.

The proposed change would include designating and maintaining the sites that are sustainable for camping and closing those that are unsustainable, which is approximately 20% of the sites across the PRU. Designated sites would be made identifiable with signage, rehabilitated and maintained for primitive camping, and remain free of charge and available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The public would have a better understanding of locations of allowable roadside dispersed camping, and proper use.

This first proposal focuses on Hickory Ridge Road (see map), which is highly impacted and the most heavily inundated with dispersed sites within the PRU. Of the 19 sites along Hickory Ridge Road, eight sites would be closed, and two sites would be transformed and maintained as small parking areas for trail users. Nine sites would be maintained for camping. Site 1 (see map) would accommodate overflow parking for the popular Hickory Ridge Lookout Tower and Wilderness Trailhead. The site would not be expanded in size from its existing footprint and no trees greater than 3 inches in diameter at breast height (DBH) would be cut. Site 7 would allow for up to four vehicles to park and promote access to an existing trail (Trail 19). The site would not be expanded in size from its existing footprint and no trees greater than 3 inches (DBH) would be cut. Site creep (expansion) for all sites remaining open would be mitigated by installing additional barrier posts to define the parking areas and campsites, and gravel would be used to surface the parking areas and for maintenance of entryways to campsites. In addition, Trail 19 would be re-designated as a hike/bike trail to promote these types of use in the area and to serve as an alternative for hiking to the popular nearby Sycamore Trail. The proposal for Hickory Ridge Road includes higher than 20% of closures, due to its heavy inundation of visitor-created sites compared to all other road segments in the PRU and across the Forest.

The focal point of this proposal (Hickory Ridge Road in Jackson County, IN) is in Management Area 6.4, defined by the Hoosier National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan) for the general forest, preservation, limited access, minimum management, and allows restoration and maintenance of plant communities. The proposal is consistent with the direction in the Forest Plan for management area 6.4 which includes:

  • Creates a physical setting that provides an opportunity for solitude and a feeling of closeness to nature
  • Interaction between visitors is low, and there is only subtle evidence of other users
  • Tranquility and solitude are probable experiences
  • Limit public motorized access to those roads on the periphery of the area
  • Use of other forest roads is limited to resource management, administrative use, and foot travel
  • Minimize other recreation developments and provide only those that prevent site deterioration or protect the user from health hazards

Officials are interested in your comments related to this proposal. Comments would be most helpful if received by June 18, 2022. Please mail your comments to Hoosier National Forest, Attn: Hickory Ridge Dispersed Sites Proposed Project, 811 Constitution Avenue, Bedford, IN 47421.

You may send electronic comments in a format such as an email message, plain text (.txt), rich text (.rtf), Word (.doc) or Portable Document Format (.pdf), to Facsimile comments may be faxed to (812) 547-9259. Please include the following information when commenting:

  • Your name, address, telephone number, and organization are represented if applicable
  • Title of this project (Hickory Ridge Dispersed Sites Proposed Project) in the subject line
  • Specific concerns, facts, and supporting reasons regarding your comments

Comments received, including the names and addresses of those who comment, will become part of the public record for this project and will be available for public inspection. If you have any questions or would like additional information about this project, please contact Stacy Duke at 812-276-4726.