The Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Division of Forestry (TDF) is amending and extending the temporary restrictions of Franklin State Forest located in Franklin and Marion Counties. Public motorized vehicle use will continue to be prohibited, while non-motorized traffic, such as hiking, horseback riding, and mechanical bicycles, will be allowed through January 4, 2024.
“Damage from motorized vehicles, especially in non-designated areas, is extensive at Franklin State Forest,” State Forester David Arnold said. “We have been assessing conditions since March and have determined a significant impact on erosion control, water quality, forest health, and other forms of recreation. This extension of some restrictions will provide our forest staff time to make repairs and consider future use on all forest roads and trails to adequately protect, conserve, and enhance this public forest for future generations.”
Under the amended restrictions for Franklin State Forest, all motorized vehicle use, including, but not limited to, motorcycles, dirt bikes, all-terrain vehicles, and off-highway vehicles, is prohibited. This restriction is mandated pursuant to Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 0080-07-01-.05 for the protection of Franklin State Forest and the safety and welfare of visitors. Motorized vehicles are allowed to access the three designated parking areas on the forest.
Failure to comply with this use restriction is a violation of state law and may result in civil penalties and/or criminal charges. This order expires on January 4, 2024, unless extended or otherwise rescinded by the State Forester.
Law enforcement with the department’s Agricultural Crime Unit (ACU) has continued to patrol Franklin State Forest. One arrest was made following multiple citations of violations. ACU will continue to enforce restrictions.
Foresters are working to rehabilitate damaged roads and trails. So far, TDF staff have worked nearly 1,000 hours to repair 6 miles of roads damaged by motorized vehicles. Another 30 miles of roads and trails remain for repair and improvement.
Damage to forest resources from motorized vehicles is not limited to Franklin State Forest. The division is monitoring and assessing measures to correct abuses across the state forest system, which includes 15 state forests totaling 168,000 acres. For all other state forests, the use of motorcycles, trail bikes, all-terrain vehicles, bicycles, and other off-road vehicles in any area of a state forest is strictly prohibited except on designated roads or trails maintained by TDF.
Updates regarding restriction status, assessment plans, and the mitigation response for Franklin State Forest can be found online at www.tn.gov/agriculture/forests/state-forests/franklin.html and on the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Facebook page.
Franklin State Forest covers more than 8,830 acres on the southern Cumberland Plateau. It contains a variety of forest communities ranging from oak and hickory to plantations of loblolly pine. Within the forest boundaries are numerous caves, abandoned mines, waterfalls, overlooks, and other examples of natural beauty which have made the state forest a popular destination for recreational use.