In 2016, Hanging Dog Campground will reopen as an overnight camping facility in the Tusquitee Ranger District of Nantahala National Forest. The campground, which was first opened in 1963, was closed to camping in 2014. However, the day use facilities remained open. Forest Service officials closed the campground due to declining use and rising operating costs. A collaborative effort between the Cherokee County Commissioners and local Forest Service officials is bringing life back to the campground.
"The Board of Commissioners is greatly appreciative of the efforts by local Forest Service officials to renew discussions on opportunities for outdoor recreation within Forest Service lands. The Board is looking forward to working with the Forest Service to develop a plan that will initially see the Hanging Dog Campground reopened to overnight camping," said C.B. McKinnon, Chairman of the Cherokee County Commission Board.
"Any decision to close a campground or recreational facility is never easy, and we know it can be tough on the local community," said Angela Gee, U.S. Forest Service District Ranger, Cheoah and Tusquitee Ranger Districts. "With a significant decrease in the yearly operating budget to maintain recreational facilities across the National Forests in North Carolina, we could not reopen this campground without some type of support."
Currently Cherokee County officials and the U.S. Forest Service are working on the details of an agreement. The agreement will likely include some support for maintenance of the campground along with assistance in getting the campground ready for reopening.
Gary Westmoreland, Cherokee County Commissioner said, "We are pleased with the positive progress that has been made in moving forward with the project for our citizens and visitors." Commissioners McKinnon and Westmoreland expressed that the Board of Commissioners is very interested in additional opportunities to work with the U.S. Forest Service toward future expansion of recreational opportunities on Forest Service lands beyond overnight camping.
The Board of Commissioners of Cherokee County expressed their appreciation to U.S. Senator Richard Burr, U.S. Senator Thom Tillis, U.S. Congressman Mark Meadows N.C. Representative Roger West and N.C. Senator Jim Davis, for their support and assistance in moving this effort forward.
Forest Service and local officials have agreed to reopen the campground on a trial basis and will be monitoring the use. "We are hoping that people who loved camping at Hanging Dog campground will come back, and the reopening will attract new campers," said Gee. "We are optimistic that the numbers and partnership support will show a need to continue operating this location for overnight camping."
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