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Thread: Carrying on Virginia Creeper Bike Trail

  1. #1
    Regular Member Ruger's Avatar
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    About a month from now I am planning to go cycling on the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail in Southwest VA, however, I am having difficulty ascertaining whether or not I can carry while doing so. The official website does not have anything posted that says firearms are prohibited, and I don't exactly want to call only to have an ignorant employee tell me no b/c they don't really know the answer but happen to not like guns themselves.

    From what I can gather, and I may be wrong about this, the area in question is not consideredto be a national or state park.It stretches through multiple towns, and I think that part of the trail may even pass through private property.

    So, do any of my gun-toting VA brothers have any experience carrying on the trail? I need some advice. Thanks!
    Carry on!

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    Founder's Club Member - Moderator ed's Avatar
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    From the website: The Virginia Creeper Trail is a combined effort of many organizations and passes through several city and county jurisdictions not to mention private property. From the trail head in Abingdon to Damascus, the City of Abingdon and the Town of Damascus maintain and support the trail with the cooperation of the property owners. From Damascus to the NC State line the US Forest Service maintains the trail in cooperation the the property owners.

    Not legal advice, but I would carry.
    Carry On.

    Ed

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    Campaign Veteran skidmark's Avatar
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    IIRC correctly the Trail is a collection of parks/greenspaces amalgameted under a regional authority of some sort . http://www.vacreepertrail.us/founders.html

    There is this statement about no firearms on certain portions of theTrail http://www.vacreepertrail.us/rules.htmlbut I'm not sure that it is legal given Virginia's state preemption law.

    Wiki says the Trail belongs to the National Forest Service http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia_Creeper_Trail- in which case state preeemption is not even an issue.

    According to this US Forest Service document http://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/trends/VCT.pdfthe Trail is owned approximately 50/50 between the USFS and local governments. If that is the case, state preemption covers the portions owned by the localities and USFS/USDA rules cover the federally owned portion.

    My bottom-line reading is that in spite of the few web sites that have "no firearms" rules posted there is nothing that would legally prevent you from carrying while enjoying the Virginia Creeper Trail. Just be aware of when you are in USFS vs. Virginia territory as there are some differences in how you can carry.

    Welcome to Virginia. Thanks for bringing money.

    stay safe.

    skidmark

    *edited for a typo

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    Regular Member Ruger's Avatar
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    skidmark wrote:
    Just be aware of when you are in USFS vs. Virginia territory as there are some differences in how you can carry.
    Could you explain?
    Carry on!

  5. #5
    Campaign Veteran skidmark's Avatar
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    ed wrote:
    From the website: The Virginia Creeper Trail is a combined effort of many organizations and passes through several city and county jurisdictions not to mention private property. From the trail head in Abingdon to Damascus, the City of Abingdon and the Town of Damascus maintain and support the trail with the cooperation of the property owners. From Damascus to the NC State line the US Forest Service maintains the trail in cooperation the the property owners.

    Not legal advice, but I would carry.
    Not trying to start an argument, but this website http://www.vacreepertrail.us/facts.htmlsays the towns of Abington, Damascus and the US Forest Service (Mt. Rogers National Recreational Area) own the Trail - no private property. Everything else I could find says the same - no private property.

    I'm mentioning this to clarify that the only rules you need to be concerned about are local park and National Forest rules. Local parks come under state preemption. Just be aware of when you cross a bpundary line. A decent topo map would be your friend in that regard.

    stay safe.

    skidmark
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    Campaign Veteran skidmark's Avatar
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    Ruger wrote:
    skidmark wrote:
    Just be aware of when you are in USFS vs. Virginia territory as there are some differences in how you can carry.
    Could you explain?
    National Forests allow open carry only. Those portions owned by Abington & Damascus would permit concealed carry with a valid permission slip or open carry without paperwork.

    Even though this is OCDO I find it best to cover all the bases when discussing carry modes as they relate to the various rules that are being questioned. You may find it desirable to protect your firearm from the elements and depending on where you are mat determine how you do that. (HINT > gallon-size baggies can be your friend in non-CCW environments)

    Also, you are reminded that a few of the websites I have linked to seem to believe that there are rules against carrying at all - especially on those portions owned by the local governments. You might want to contact Ed and ask him for one of his Open Carry cards - or a few to share with anyone you might meet on the trail who ask about OC. For the price of a SASE it's a great bargain.

    stay safe.

    skidmark
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    Accomplished Advocate peter nap's Avatar
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    skidmark wrote:
    Ruger wrote:
    skidmark wrote:
    Just be aware of when you are in USFS vs. Virginia territory as there are some differences in how you can carry.
    Could you explain?
    National Forests allow open carry only. Those portions owned by Abington & Damascus would permit concealed carry with a valid permission slip or open carry without paperwork.

    Even though this is OCDO I find it best to cover all the bases when discussing carry modes as they relate to the various rules that are being questioned. You may find it desirable to protect your firearm from the elements and depending on where you are mat determine how you do that. (HINT > gallon-size baggies can be your friend in non-CCW environments)

    Also, you are reminded that a few of the websites I have linked to seem to believe that there are rules against carrying at all - especially on those portions owned by the local governments. You might want to contact Ed and ask him for one of his Open Carry cards - or a few to share with anyone you might meet on the trail who ask about OC. For the price of a SASE it's a great bargain.

    stay safe.

    skidmark
    Skidmark, I was under the impression that National Forests only allowed CHP holders to carry outside of Hunting Season. Do you gave a cite?


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    Regular Member t33j's Avatar
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    peter nap wrote:
    Skidmark, I was under the impression that National Forests only allowed CHP holders to carry outside of Hunting Season. Do you gave a cite?
    And I thought that was for State forests
    Sic Semper Tyrannis

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    Accomplished Advocate peter nap's Avatar
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    t33j wrote:
    peter nap wrote:
    Skidmark, I was under the impression that National Forests only allowed CHP holders to carry outside of Hunting Season. Do you gave a cite?
    And I thought that was for State forests
    It may have changed but there was an agreement between a number of states and the National Forest to make game management uniform. Under that agreement DGIF property and National Forests shared the same carry regulations. In a WMA (DGIF Land) off season carry is CHP only.

    That makes WMA's, etc different than VDOF land and will require a different Attorney General's Opinion.


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    Regular Member TFred's Avatar
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    According to the trail's website, there doesn't appear to be any affiliation with a government agency, but it says it's run by local folks who like the trail:

    This non-profit informational site has been created by local residents who live in or near Damascus, Virginia, and by others from around the country who love this 34-mile trail which winds down through the Blue Ridge mountains from Whitetop to Abingdon, Virginia.
    The Contact Us page gives an e-mail address, it may be interesting for someone to drop a note asking what is their basis for asserting in the "rules" that firearms are prohibited:

    On the Abingdon to Damascus portion of the trail, hunting or carrying firearms is prohibited at all times.

    On the Mount Rogers portion, hunting is allowed in season. Firearms may not be carried at any other time.
    It would be even more interesting to know if there are such signs posted along the trail as well.

    One final note of interest... why would anyone ever need to carry a firearm along the Virginia Creeper Trail?

    The only public phone along the trail is in Damascus. Cell coverage is poor or non-existent.
    If you run into trouble... you are on your own!

    TFred


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    Regular Member TFred's Avatar
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    And reading on a bit... some of those "anti-trail" folks are crazy!! I would definitely not want to be on my own along that trail unarmed...

    http://www.vacreepertrail.us/opposition.html

    Maybe they've calmed down by now... maybe not!

    TFred


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    Accomplished Advocate peter nap's Avatar
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    TFred wrote:
    And reading on a bit... some of those "anti-trail" folks are crazy!! I would definitely not want to be on my own along that trail unarmed...

    http://www.vacreepertrail.us/opposition.html

    Maybe they've calmed down by now... maybe not!

    TFred
    Those in opposition either did not accept the fact, or did not realize, that Norfolk and Western Railway owned the property they were claiming and blocking.
    According to that, the railroad owns the property. I wonder if they still do?

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    Regular Member TFred's Avatar
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    peter nap wrote:
    TFred wrote:
    And reading on a bit... some of those "anti-trail" folks are crazy!! I would definitely not want to be on my own along that trail unarmed...

    http://www.vacreepertrail.us/opposition.html

    Maybe they've calmed down by now... maybe not!

    TFred
    Those in opposition either did not accept the fact, or did not realize, that Norfolk and Western Railway owned the property they were claiming and blocking.
    According to that, the railroad owns the property. I wonder if they still do?
    I'm not sure, but I took that to mean that the railroad owned the property, and when they sold it to the local towns for the trail, the adjacent landowners took... exception...

    See the article here: http://www.vacreepertrail.us/founders.html

    TFred


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    Accomplished Advocate peter nap's Avatar
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    Interesting read and still confusing because looking at the article, it's all municipal property.

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    Regular Member t33j's Avatar
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    That trail looks pretty awesome. I'm gonna have to take a trip of my own now.
    Sic Semper Tyrannis

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    Abingdon and Damascus repealed their preempted gun bans.


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    Campaign Veteran skidmark's Avatar
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    peter nap wrote:
    skidmark wrote:
    Ruger wrote:
    skidmark wrote:
    Just be aware of when you are in USFS vs. Virginia territory as there are some differences in how you can carry.
    Could you explain?
    National Forests allow open carry only. Those portions owned by Abington & Damascus would permit concealed carry with a valid permission slip or open carry without paperwork.

    Even though this is OCDO I find it best to cover all the bases when discussing carry modes as they relate to the various rules that are being questioned. You may find it desirable to protect your firearm from the elements and depending on where you are mat determine how you do that. (HINT > gallon-size baggies can be your friend in non-CCW environments)

    Also, you are reminded that a few of the websites I have linked to seem to believe that there are rules against carrying at all - especially on those portions owned by the local governments. You might want to contact Ed and ask him for one of his Open Carry cards - or a few to share with anyone you might meet on the trail who ask about OC. For the price of a SASE it's a great bargain.

    stay safe.

    skidmark
    Skidmark, I was under the impression that National Forests only allowed CHP holders to carry outside of Hunting Season. Do you gave a cite?
    http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/gwj/general_info/index.shtml
    Laws Regarding Firearms on National Forest Lands

    First, the primary laws governing possession of firearms and other weapons on National Forest are State Laws. These laws were developed by the states following establishment of our Cooperative Wildlife Management Agreements. Most notable of the state laws concerns controlling firearms on the National Forest are “cased gun laws”.

    Cased Gun Laws: As the name implies, this law requires that all firearms on National Forest be unloaded and kept in a case. Virginia and West Virginia have similar “cased gun laws”. In order to allow hunting, these laws make an exception.

      • It is legal to have loaded firearms on National Forest during the authorized general firearms and muzzle loading gun seasons for bear, deer, grouse, pheasant, quail, rabbit, raccoon, squirrel, turkey, or waterfowl. This exception is very specific and applies only during the period when it is legal to take these listed species and doesn’t include carrying the loaded weapons in a vehicle.
      • Because hunting on Sunday is prohibited, carrying a loaded gun on National Forest is not legal on Sunday even if it is the Sunday in the middle of the general firearms deer season.
      • The second exception to this law allows people with a concealed weapon permit to carry a loaded, concealed, handgun either on their person or in their vehicle while on National Forest. This does not apply if the person is engaged in a primitive weapons season or chase only season.
      • People muzzle loading or bow hunting may carry a concealed weapon as long as they possess a concealed weapon permit.

    Discharging a firearm, crossbow, or bow and arrow in or across a road or within the right-of-way of any road is prohibited by both State and Federal Law.

    Any person convicted of a felony may not legally possess firearms on National Forest.

    Reckless use or handling firearms: It is a violation of both Federal and State law to handle any firearm in a careless and reckless manner or hunt while under the influence of intoxicants or narcotic drugs.

    TARGET SHOOTING - Target shooting is prohibited on the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests by an Order signed in February of 1996. Target shooting on National Forest should be accomplished only at approved ranges.
    Mea culpa! Have no idea what I was thinking - except that perhaps the first sentence actually meant what it says.

    Thanks for catching my error.

    stay safe.

    skidmark

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    Accomplished Advocate peter nap's Avatar
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    skidmark wrote:
    peter nap wrote:
    skidmark wrote:
    Ruger wrote:
    skidmark wrote:
    J
    Mea culpa! Have no idea what I was thinking - except that perhaps the first sentence actually meant what it says.

    Thanks for catching my error.

    stay safe.

    skidmark
    They do get hard to keep track of. When the VDOF rule changes I plan on hitting the DGIF rules.

    That will also cover the National Forests.

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    Regular Member TFred's Avatar
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    VCDL President wrote:
    Abingdon and Damascus repealed their preempted gun bans.
    So it sounds like someone just needs to drop a nice note to the webmaster to remind them that the laws have changed...

    Would be much better from someone close, I live hundreds of miles away.

    TFred

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    Ruger wrote:
    About a month from now I am planning to go cycling on the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail in Southwest VA, however, I am having difficulty ascertaining whether or not I can carry while doing so. The official website does not have anything posted that says firearms are prohibited, and I don't exactly want to call only to have an ignorant employee tell me no b/c they don't really know the answer but happen to not like guns themselves.

    From what I can gather, and I may be wrong about this, the area in question is not consideredto be a national or state park.It stretches through multiple towns, and I think that part of the trail may even pass through private property.

    So, do any of my gun-toting VA brothers have any experience carrying on the trail? I need some advice. Thanks!
    My email conversation with the person answering the email address listed on the website:

    My orginial email to him:

    May I ask a few questions about my safety on the trail?

    From the rules on Website:

    On the Abingdon to Damascus portion of the trail, hunting or carrying firearms is prohibited at all times.

    On the Mount Rogers portion, hunting is allowed in season. Firearms may not be carried at any other time.

    The above two statements are telling me I cannot carry my firearm on the trail? This trail is a public trail, right? Also, I carry for self defense, not hunting, therefore my carry is pre-empted by Virginia state firearm laws, due to the fact that none of the actual trail is considered private property. Could you please write back, and let me know - Thank you for your time.

    Joe


    His response:

    Joe, what website page are you referring to? If it's on http://www.vacreepertrail.us, this is a personal website I do as a public service and to provide free advertising for Damascus-area businesses.

    I think there are some rule changes which will let you guys carry guns but not use them on the trail. I'm sorry you are have so much fear on the Creeper Trail that you have to carry a weapon. I think most people believe it's one of the safest places you can be. However, I think current regulations say that you can carry all the weapons you want, so maybe that will make you feel safer. I'm a retired Marine and don't feel a need to go out armed in the midst of scout troops and families with small children. But I guess some people do.

    As to your safety on the trail, the most danger you will probably face is reckless teenagers speeding downhill. I don't think there's a need to shoot them, however.

    Richard


    My response:

    I might have come off a little rough when I was emailing you about the firearms policies, and I seem to have struck a cord with you. Believe me, I didn’t mean to.



    It is very understandable that everyone has different beliefs about guns. Mine is simple: I would rather carry my sidearm and not need it, then become a victim. However little chance I would have of being attacked anywhere (even on the trail), it is still a real possibility. I don’t carry out of fear, and I also don’t carry to instill fear. The fact of the matter is, I do not fear our scout troops and families; I know they mean no harm. However, there are the few that would target this and others even in the most unlikely places. I feel safe in my house, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be broken into. I could harp about my beliefs all day, but I know it doesn’t make a difference, because it is just that, >MY< belief.



    I appreciate you responding to my request. I hope some day I will have the chance to enjoy the trail. Have a great day, sir.

    Joe

    His response:

    Joseph, in response, I must say that I react a bit strongly to things, but I do agree with you totally that being prepared beats being a victim. Although the Creeper Trail is safe (so far) the Appalachian Trail, which also runs through our town, has had some tragic incidents perpetuated by locals. I personally don't go onto the AT with family or alone unless I am ready for any surprises. So I agree with your stance on this. Both of my daughters have been trained (by the Israelis) to handle weapons, and this has increased their confidence in handling situations which might arise. So I am in agreement with the need for self defense. I suppose my reaction was something like, "Of all places, why the Creeper Trail?"

    Thanks for your good response. Come visit with us in Damascus:
    http://www.damascus.org. It's a hiking, biking, hunting, horse-riding, whitewater small town that is rare in the States.

    Richard


  21. #21
    Regular Member Ruger's Avatar
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    Sounds good. I will plan on carrying then

    I think its funny how the guy first says that he doesn't understand why someone would feel the need to carry on the trail, and then later says that the Appalachain Trail which is also nearby has had some "tragic" incidents and doesn't go on it unless ready for surprises. Looks like an about-face to me. Maybe after having some time to think about it he realized that we aren't crazy for wanting to carry in an otherwise "safe" place after all.
    Carry on!

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    Regular Member TFred's Avatar
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    Sounds like all is well that ends well. I guess we'll see if the website is updated.

    Being a Monday morning quarterback (and fully accepting all the connotations of just how "useless" that position is ) I probably would have just concentrated on the fact that it appears the website was out of date, given that the two towns have reportedly corrected their ordinances to comply with 15.2-915 (the preemption statute).

    If I said anything at all about safety issues, I probably would have approached it from the perspective of the other information provided on the website: that there is only one public phone along the trail, and cell service is spotty, or non-existent. This truly leaves users of the trail "on their own" in case of trouble.

    I found it reassuring that the guy acknowledged that there can be crime issues on trails. At least he has one foot in the real world.

    TFred


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