Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government
Mammoth Cave National Park (MACA or park) is the core of the largest, most complex, and best known karst area in the world. Karst is a geologic term which refers to areas of irregular limestone in which erosion has produced features such as fissures, sinkholes, underground streams, sinking springs, and caverns. The many types of geologic features present within the extensive cave system are the product of a unique set of conditions found nowhere else. The 365 miles of passageways that have been surveyed and mapped define Mammoth Cave as the longest cave system in the world.
The mission of MACA is to protect and preserve the extensive limestone caverns and associated karst topography, scenic river-ways, original forests, other biological resources, and evidence of past and contemporary ways of life. MACA also strives to educate and enrich the public through scientific study and to provide for the development and sustainable use of recreational resources and opportunities within the park.
As early as 1905, Members of the Kentucky Congressional delegation suggested Mammoth Cave as a national park. In its April 18, 1926, report to the Secretary of the Interior, the Southern Appalachian National Park Commission recommended national park status for the Mammoth Cave region for, among other reasons, the:
Public interest in outdoor recreation at the Mammoth Cave area has not diminished since the Southern Appalachian National Park Commission issued its report in 1926. Through the years, park managers have responded to changing trends in recreation. The Wild Cave tour began in 1969, and a system of backcountry trails was initiated in the 1970s. In the 1980s, a horse livery on the park boundary began offering guided rides on park trails and canoe and kayak liveries began shuttle services on the Green and Nolin rivers. In 2007, the Mammoth Cave Railroad Bike & Hike Trail was completed, connecting the heart of the park with one of the gateway communities (two other gateway communities have expressed interest in constructing similar trails); and the 2007 Comprehensive Trail Management Plan calls for bicycle use on certain trails in the park.
The park currently has approximately 85 miles of open trail. All trails are open to hiking, approximately 55 miles of trail are open to horses, approximately 17 miles of trail are open to bicycles, and approximately 2.4 miles of trail accommodate both horses and bicycles.
Shortly after the park was designated in 1941, several short trails were developed in the vicinity of the Mammoth Cave Hotel and Historic cave entrance. Over the years, these trails were improved and expanded into a series of loops which compose the first 6.5 miles of the front-country trail system in the vicinity of the park's visitor center and nearby Green River. Other trails, including trails at Sloans Pond, Turnhole Bend, Sand Cave, and Cedar Sink, were developed as short hikes to park features.
In the early 1970s, the park planned a series of trails in the more than 20,000 acres north of the Green River. In 1974, those trails were officially opened to hiking and horseback riding. The main trails of that 55-mile system followed old and pre-existing dirt roads, with the remaining trails built as connections between those dirt roads to create loops.
In 1999, a local biking club asked park management about the possibility of permitting bicycling on one or more trails in the park. After consideration by the park, approximately 13 miles of trails were opened to bicycling on an experimental basis, while continuing to allow hiking and horseback riding on the same trails.
In February 2005, park officials organized the first Backcountry Summit meeting between MACA, the Bowling Green League of Bicyclists, the Sierra Club, and the Mammoth Cave Equestrian Trail Riders Association. The purpose of this meeting was to provide an avenue of communication between park officials and all user groups regarding improving and maintaining backcountry trails and other backcountry issues.
The park developed a Comprehensive Trail Management Plan (CTMP) and Environmental Assessment (EA) in 2007 to ensure protection of park resources and address increasing demand for public use of trails. The purpose of the CTMP was to develop and implement objectives and strategies for the protection, management, and use of trails park-wide for a period of 10 years. The plan identifies designated trails and access points as well as the type of
The park staff utilized NPS Management Policies 2006 and the purposes for which the park was established by Congress to develop objectives and ensure the appropriateness of designating trails and the uses allowed for each trail within MACA.
One of the most important concepts incorporated into the CTMP is sustainability. Under the plan, the park will use sustainable material and techniques for trail maintenance, future trail design, and construction projects. The park will use techniques such as maximum grade limits, water bars, and large dips in the trail called grade reversals to minimize or slow erosion from water and use. The park will build bridges and utilize materials such as gravel, landscape timbers, and geotextile to create a more durable trail surface and protect potentially vulnerable trail features.
Because the CTMP proposed actions, such as constructing trails and changing trail alignments, that could have environmental consequences, NPS was required by the National Environmental Policy Act to evaluate the potential environmental impacts of those actions. The associated EA evaluated several alternative proposed actions or variations for a trail plan, including a “no action” alternative that would not change the way the trails were then managed. The draft plan and accompanying EA were prepared after a public meeting on June 29, 2006, and after a public scoping period from June 29, 2006, to July 14, 2006. After the draft plan and accompanying EA were prepared and published, NPS held a second public meeting on February 7, 2008, in conjunction with a 60-day comment period from January 24, 2008, to March 24, 2008.
On November 14, 2008, the park selected Alternative 4 described in the EA. A Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the selected alternative was approved on December 17, 2008. The NPS has determined bicycle use to be appropriate for certain trails in MACA, with the incorporation of sustainable design, construction, and maintenance standards and materials. Minimizing trail damage and deterioration and environmental impacts is an essential element of Alternative 4. Under Alternative 4, the Big Hollow Trail will be constructed for bicycle use but will not be open to horses. Bicycle use will be eliminated on the Sal Hollow, Buffalo, and portions of the Turnhole Bend Trails, which will revert to hiking and horse use only.
Public comment was overwhelmingly in support of Alternative 4 and opposed to the park's preferred alternative, Alternative 5. The primary difference between these two alternatives is that under Alternative 4, the NPS will construct a new trail primarily for bicycle use whereas Alternative 5 called for removal of horses from the existing First Creek Trail in order to allow bicycles on that trail. Creating a new trail for bicycle use and reverting some trails to hiking and horse use only will enhance recreational opportunities for a variety of park users.
The EA is available online at
A new Connector Trail will be designed and constructed for the purpose of connecting access points and other areas with trails, including the Maple Springs Group Campground, Maple Springs Trailhead, Mammoth Cave International Center for Science and Learning, Big Hollow Trailhead, and the Raymer Hollow Trailhead. This approximately 1.5 mile Connector Trail will run from the Maple Springs Trailhead to the Raymer Hollow Trailhead, and will be a wide, hardened-gravel trail to withstand heavy, two-way traffic of hikers, bicyclists, and horseback riders. The section of the Connector Trail between Maple Springs Trailhead and the Big Hollow Trailhead will be designated as multiple-use, and the section from the Big Hollow Trailhead to the Raymer Hollow will be restricted to hikers and horses. As part of the Connector Trail development, the existing parking lot at the Maple Springs Trailhead will be improved and expanded. This lot will add parking capacity for the trail system and allow bicyclists, hikers and equestrian access to the horse and hiking trails or Big Hollow Trail without using park roads.
When the Connector Trail is complete, the trailhead and trails at the Good Spring Baptist Church will be eliminated, as access will no longer be needed to the Raymer Hollow Trail. Elimination of these trails and the trailhead will greatly reduce the impact on and degradation of the Good Spring Baptist Church cultural site.
Currently, the only way for equestrians, bicyclists, and hikers to access trailheads is by using the Maple Springs Loop Road and the Good Spring Church Road, which can be congested with large pickup trucks, horse trailers, and other passenger vehicles. Use of these roadways creates a potential hazard for trail users. The Connector Trail will provide an alternative to using these roads and increase public safety by getting these trail users away from the roads and the potential for collision with vehicles.
The selected alternative (Alternative 4) includes the development of the six-mile-long Big Hollow Trail, which will be constructed east of the Green River Ferry Road-North and on the ridge west of Big Hollow. Bicycling and hiking will be allowed on the Big Hollow Trail, but the trail will be closed to horse use. Public comments on the EA substantially supported construction of this trail for bicycle use.
This new trail increases opportunities for bicycle use without reducing the number of trails accessible to horse use, while maintaining separation of horse and bicycle users. Separation of these activities should improve the recreational experience for user groups and offer bicyclists access to backcountry scenery.
Since the trail will involve new construction, the selected alternative will have more impact on park resources than other alternatives, but we concluded it will not have a significant effect on the environment. Vegetation will be removed on the trail surface, and cleared along the trail margins, and sustainable materials and construction techniques will be used to build the trail, which will help control and minimize surface degradation, erosion, and other effects on surrounding park resources. The Big Hollow Trail will not pass through floodplains, cross streams, or be located near wetlands, and therefore is expected to have no new impacts on water resources.
Vegetation and tree removal identified in the selected alternative will be completed in accordance with the “Biological Opinion for the Effects of the Hazard Tree Removal and Vegetation Management Program to the Indiana Bat at Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky” to ensure the activities will be considered “not likely to adversely affect” the species.
To minimize any effect on archeological resources, the park has surveyed areas where ground
An environmental assessment for the Mammoth Cave Railroad Bike & Hike Trail was completed in 1999 and amended in 2004. Between 2004 and 2007, the NPS constructed this approximately nine-mile-long, graveled hiking and biking trail. The Mammoth Cave Railroad Bike & Hike Trail follows the general route of a historic railroad bed leading from the visitor center to the park boundary at Park City and receives significant daily use. The trail passes close enough to the campground area to provide hiking and bicycling opportunities for those camping at the park. The trail continues past the campground, through valleys and higher elevations on the ridge-tops, providing the user with a varied ecological view of the park. Several wayside exhibits along the trail recount historic facts regarding the old railroad route, including past events and structures that played a significant role in the history of the area. The Mammoth Cave Railroad Bike & Hike Trail was designed and constructed utilizing modern technology and sustainable design. The eight-foot-wide graveled surface was designed to offer a comparatively easy, family-style bicycle trail as opposed to the single-track, mountain-biking type of experience.
The Mammoth Cave Railroad Bike & Hike Trail will connect to historic Bell's Tavern upon completion of Park City's bike trail. The park has received expressions of interest from the communities of Cave City and Brownsville to construct similar bike trails that could connect with the Mammoth Cave Railroad Bike & Hike Trail. These improvements would provide opportunities for the use of the park and contribute to the “Connecting People to Parks” initiative of the NPS and the President's “America's Great Outdoors” initiative.
The CTMP also identified the 2.4-mile-long White Oak Trail as a multiple-use trail, and this rule will designate it as a trail for bicycle use in addition to hiking and horseback riding. The trail is on an old roadbed and is wide, fairly level, and currently has a relatively low level of use. The flat and wide nature of the trail provides conditions that will tend to minimize user conflicts and support the multiple-use designation. The NPS will continue to occasionally use the White Oak Trail for administrative vehicle access to backcountry sites for emergency response and to conduct maintenance and monitoring activities.
On May 17, 2011, NPS published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the designation of bicycle trails at MACA (76 FR 28388). The proposed rule for bicycle use was based upon the selected action (Alternative 4) described in the EA and FONSI. The proposed rule was available for public comment from May 17, 2011, through July 18, 2011.
Comments were accepted through the mail, hand delivery, and through the Federal eRulemaking Portal:
Paragraph (c)(2)(ii) of the proposed rule has been deleted because it is duplicative with 36 CFR 4.30(d)(2). Paragraph (c)(2)(iii) of the proposed rule (now paragraph (c)(2)(ii) of the final rule) has been revised to make the speed limit 15 miles per hour or as posted in the park. This gives MACA the flexibility to adjust the speed limit to address visitor safety, health, or resource management concerns. Paragraph (c)(3) has been revised to grant the Superintendent of MACA the authority to open or close designated bicycle routes, or to impose conditions or restrictions for bicycle use after taking into consideration public health and safety, natural and cultural resource protection, and other management activities and objectives. This authority may be exercised independent of the Superintendent's authority under 36 CFR 1.5 and will provide the park with greater flexibility to respond to the impacts of bicycle use on designated routes. Public notice of any action taken under paragraph (c)(3)(i) must be given pursuant to one or more of the methods set forth in 36 CFR 1.7. Paragraph (c)(3)(ii) was added to clarify that violating a closure, condition, or restriction established by the Superintendent under paragraph (c)(3) is prohibited. After consideration of the public comments, the park has decided that no other changes are necessary to the proposed rule.
Executive Order 12866 provides that the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) will review all significant rules. OIRA has determined that this rule is not significant.
Executive Order 13563 reaffirms the principles of Executive Order 12866 while calling for improvements in the nation's regulatory system to promote predictability, to reduce uncertainty, and to use the best, most innovative, and least burdensome tools for achieving regulatory ends. The executive order directs agencies to consider regulatory approaches that reduce burdens and maintain flexibility and freedom of choice for the public where these approaches are relevant, feasible, and consistent with regulatory objectives. Executive Order 13563 emphasizes further that regulations must be based on the best available
This rule will not have a significant economic effect on a substantial number of small entities under the RFA (5 U.S.C. 601
This rule is not a major rule under 5 U.S.C. 804(2), the SBREFA. This rule:
(a) Does not have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more. There are no businesses in the surrounding area economically dependent on continued bicycle use on these trails. The November 2009 NPS economic analysis estimated that the rule will add a benefit to local business in the form of new visitors attracted to the area to use the trails.
(b) Will not cause a major increase in costs or prices for consumers, individual industries, Federal, state, or local government agencies, or geographic regions. The rule will not impose restrictions on local businesses in the form of fees, training, record keeping, or other measures that would increase costs. The economic analysis projected a net benefit for the Federal government and a consumer surplus of $24.02/day for new visitors and $12.01/day for current visitors.
(c) Does not have significant adverse effects on competition, employment, investment, productivity, innovation, or the ability of U.S. based enterprises to compete with foreign based enterprises. The rule is internal to NPS operations.
This rule does not impose an unfunded mandate on State, local, or tribal governments or the private sector of more than $100 million per year. The rule does not have a significant or unique effect on State, local or tribal governments or the private sector. This rulemaking addresses only actions that will be taken by the NPS. It will not require any State, local or tribal government to take any action that is not funded. It is an NPS-specific rule and imposes no requirements on small governments. A statement containing the information required by the UMRA (2 U.S.C. 1531
Under the criteria in section 2 of Executive Order 12630, this rule does not have significant takings implications. This rule designates park trails inside the park, and though the trails may connect with trails external to the park, the rule does not require the taking of private land outside the park. A takings implication assessment is not required.
Under the criteria in section 1 of Executive Order 13132, this rule does not have sufficient federalism implications to warrant the preparation of a Federalism summary impact statement. This rule only effects use of NPS administered lands. It has no effect on other areas. A Federalism summary impact statement is not required.
This rule complies with the requirements of Executive Order 12988. Specifically, this rule:
(a) Meets the criteria of section 3(a) requiring that all regulations be reviewed to eliminate errors and ambiguity and be written to minimize litigation; and
(b) Meets the criteria of section 3(b)(2) requiring that all regulations be written in clear language and contain clear legal standards.
The Department of the Interior strives to strengthen its government-to-government relationship with Indian tribes through a commitment to consultation with Indian tribes and recognition of their right to self-governance and tribal sovereignty. We have evaluated this rule under the Department's consultation policy and under the criteria in Executive Order 13175 and have determined that it has no substantial direct effects on federally recognized Indian tribes and that consultation under the Department's tribal consultation policy is not required. The question was considered as part of the EA, and trails were configured to avoid areas identified as archeological sites, specifically any with known burials. In addition to the EA, past consultation with the tribes has been important in the identification of concerns or issues of cultural interest.
This rule does not contain information collection requirements, and a submission under the PRA is not required.
We have prepared environmental assessments to determine whether this rule would have a significant impact on the quality of the human environment under the NEPA. This rule does not constitute a major Federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment. A detailed statement under the NEPA is not required because we reached a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) for the Mammoth Cave Railroad Bike & Hike Trail and also for the other designated bicycle routes. The environmental assessment and FONSI for the Mammoth Cave Railroad Bike & Hike Trail and the EA for the Comprehensive Trail Management Plan (CTMP) may be reviewed at
This rule is not a significant energy action under the definition in Executive Order 13211. A Statement of Energy Effects is not required.
National parks, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.
For the reasons stated in the preamble, the National Park Service amends 36 CFR part 7 as follows:
16 U.S.C. 1, 3, 9a, 462(k); Sec. 7.96 also issued under 36 U.S.C. 501-511, DC Code 10-137 (2001) and DC Code 50-2201.07 (2001).
(i) Connector Trail from the Big Hollow Trailhead to the Maple Springs Trailhead;
(ii) Big Hollow Trail;
(iii) Mammoth Cave Railroad Bike & Hike Trail; and
(iv) White Oak Trail.
(2) The following are prohibited:
(i) Possessing a bicycle on routes or trails not designated as open to bicycle use;
(ii) Unless posted otherwise, operating a bicycle in excess of 15 miles per hour on designated routes; and
(iii) Failing to yield the right of way to horses or hikers.
(3) The Superintendent may open or close designated bicycle routes, or portions thereof, or impose conditions or restrictions for bicycle use after taking into consideration public health and safety, natural and cultural resource protection, and other management activities and objectives.
(i) The Superintendent will provide public notice of all such actions through one or more of the methods listed in § 1.7 of this chapter.
(ii) Violating a closure, condition, or restriction is prohibited.