ROAN MOUNTAIN, Tenn. – In a move said to protect public safety, the Appalachian Ranger District of the Pisgah National Forest has closed the Overmountain Shelter, located along the N.C./Tennessee border near the Appalachian Trail and Overmountain Victory Trail, the district announced Sept. 4.
“U.S. Forest Service engineers have determined that the building has become structurally unsound and cannot safely accommodate people,” the Sept. 4 U.S. Department of Agriculture statement said. “Further evaluations will occur to identify viable management options for the site.”
“People from all over have loved camping inside this old barn,” said Appalachian District Ranger Richard Thornburgh in the Sept. 4 statement. “But now there’s a real risk of it collapsing.”
Thornburgh said in the Sept. 4 statement that a support beam snapped under the large upper loft and the wood posts are rotting away.
“The barn was not originally designed to accommodate human occupancy,” Thornburgh said. “Slope movement has caused a significant downhill lean in the structure.”
Thornburgh spoke to the Avery County Commissioners on Sept. 3 about the closure, saying the future of the shelter is uncertain.
According to the USDA, the Overmountain Shelter was originally a barn on a private farm that was acquired by the Forest Service in 1979 and became part of the Pisgah National Forest. The Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club converted the barn into use as a trail shelter for the Appalachian Trail and provided basic maintenance for the structure.
“TEHCC supports the closure in the interest of public safety,” said Vic Hassler, TEHCC Appalachian Trail Committee Chair, in the Sept. 4 statement.
“We want all Appalachian Trail hikers to have a safe, enjoyable experience,” said Morgan Sommerville, Appalachian Trail Conservancy southern regional director. “With the Stan Murray Shelter just two miles to the south, there is another good shelter option nearby.”
The fields around the shelter are still open for tent camping and offer beautiful views of the Roaring Creek valley, the USDA stated.
“We’re just telling hikers not to pitch their tent within 40 feet of the shelter in the event that there is a structural failure,” Thornburgh stated in the Sept. 4 statement.
Carl Blankenship contributed reporting to this article.