Neighbors want hikers’ access to private road blocked due to traffic volume

BURKE COUNTY, N.C. — Neighbors want to block access to one of the most popular hiking trails in the North Carolina mountains.

Hikers have been using a private road to get to the top of Shortoff Mountain in the Linville Gorge. But Channel 9′s Dave Faherty learned there’s discussion to close the road.

The views in every direction make it clear why so many people go to Shortoff Mountain.

But people like Ray Earnhardt who live along the road to the trailhead say more and more people visit each year.

Earnhardt showed Faherty where his property line stretches across Wolf Pit Road. He posted a sign warning visitors the road is private and to follow the rules or public access will be denied.

“I’ve counted 106 cars from up there to all the way past my driveway and that’s why we put a stop to it,” he said.

Earnhardt isn’t alone. John Hamer has been maintaining the road that runs past his home for more than 20 years, even though most of the cars here are heading to the Shortoff Mountain trail.

“Cost me $20,000 to gravel the road at one time,” Hamer said. “Nobody has ever given us a nickel for nothing.”

“We get some people to come up here that treat this as their own private dirt track,” Shane MacKinnon said.

The U.S. Forest Service said it is working with private landowners to manage access to the Shortoff Mountain trailhead and the parking area there. On Wednesday, Faherty spotted a surveyor with the Forest Service studying the area.

Along the trail leading up the mountain, hikers hope the road stays open to the public.

“It would just make it completely inaccessible to a lot people to a lot of people that aren’t willing to hike,” Karen Stutesman said.

“It’s nature. It’s open to all of us, that’s my feeling,” hiker Ann Duhaime said.

The Forest Service said it is working on a long-term solution to allow access across some of the private land nearby.

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