Rules are Rules
Speaking of trails: our “lake” property doesn’t actually touch any portion of Center Hill Lake. Almost all of the shoreline is owned and managed by the Army Corps of Engineers. The closest point to the shoreline from our property is a cove between 150 to 500 feet away, depending on the level of the lake. With Center Hill Dam undergoing repairs it’s generally closer to the latter. The Corps allows public use of most of the land it manages, but it’s a bit of a challenge to make it all the way down from the house. It’s even more of a challenge making it back up.
As I was working on my trail, I discovered the Center Hill Lake Shoreline Management Plan which describes the availability of a “land-use permit … to allow pedestrian access to the shoreline”. I was thinking that would be pretty nice if we could extend the trail all the way down to the bottom, but the description of what this permit allows was a bit vague so I contacted the Corps for clarification. The grade of the slope is as much as 50% which necessitates a bit of cutting and filling to create a safe path, though I attempted to route my path in such a way as to minimize this as much as possible.
The Corps responded to my inquiry with the following: “The Corps does allow for four feet wide meandering paths by permit on Center Hill Lake. However, the ground itself cannot be disturbed, as the permit only allows for the removal of briars, brush, and debris by hand trimming.” This was pretty disappointing. And a bit silly to be honest. I understand the motivation is to preserve the aesthetic and the environment for the wildlife, but this black and white application of the rules will probably have the opposite effect of their stated aims. By disallowing any sort of modification of the ground, which would confine foot traffic to a limited area, we’ll instead have to make our way down following no particular path which runs the risk of having a greater overall impact on the landscape. There is no real understory to concern ourselves with in that area so hand trimming and what not is of little use and would not serve to delineate a path.
I responded the I understood the motivation but was disappointed nevertheless. I also mentioned that “our intention is to be good stewards of the land we now own and any resources you can direct us towards in furtherance of that goal is appreciated”. Sadly there was no response to that email so I guess we’re on our own. It also makes me wonder if there’s any real enthusiasm there for promoting responsible land management and a mutually beneficial relationship with their “neighbors”.
Okay, I’m sure there are good and passionate people working for the Corps, but at an organizational level it has a bit of a mindless bureaucracy vibe to it. Eventually I suppose we’ll probably wear a path down just by walking back and forth across the landscape. In the meantime we’ll just have to accept a bit of slipping and sliding over that last couple hundred feet. Maybe we should have taken the Alan Jackson approach and tried to get forgiveness instead of permission. But then I’m not rich and famous so things probably wouldn’t work out so well for me.