ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. — Forestry officials are planning to alter one of the steepest, most scenic sections of the Appalachian Trail in Carter County to make it safer.

The U.S. Forest Service and The Conservation Fund are working to change the last mile of the Pond Flats to Shook Branch section of the trail, where it reaches the Shook Branch Swim Area on Watauga Lake, the Johnson City Press reported (http://bit.ly/2dMQOvg). The new route is expected to be open in 2019.

The section of trail currently ends with a series of five short switchbacks.

The changes also include the protection of 20 acres of land near the Cherokee National Forest, which The Conservation Fund purchased in 2014. The land was then recently conveyed to the Forest Service through the support of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and others.

The newly acquired land will provide hikers a more scenic descent to the lake, as well as a safer highway crossing, officials said.

“Protecting the wildest, most pristine and beautiful areas in our state will give future generations of Tennesseans the same opportunity,” said U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who supported Tennessee’s request for LWCF funding and helped secure congressional funding for the program.

Information from: Johnson City Press, http://www.johnsoncitypress.com