Deadline approaches for forest trail use
After a long and involved process, the Tahoe National Forest is one step closer to updating its off-road trails system.
Four-wheelers, motorcyclists, bicyclists, hikers, and U.S. Forest Service staff came to a consensus Tuesday on a majority of proposed off-highway vehicle routes. Forest Service personnel will compile all data regarding the proposed routes in Truckee and Sierraville in order to develop an OHV route system by 2008.
Inventory of existing routes began in 2002 and was completed by the Forest Service last summer. More than 800 people participated in an online survey conducted by the Forest Service last spring. The three most important attributes of OHV trails, according to participants in the survey, include the physical characteristics of the trail, maintenance and trail length. Scenic views, solitude, camp sites and vegetation also rated as important factors to respondents, according to the Forest Service.
“We have to find a suitable system that meets a user’s needs,” said Rick Maddalena with the Truckee Ranger District.
During a workshop meeting held in October, three small groups were formed to decipher numerous color-coded maps and to discuss existing four-by-four routes, all-terrain vehicle routes, off-highway motorcycle routes and routes proposed by Tahoe National Forest.
The Truckee south map includes Alpine Meadows, Boreal and Sawtooth Ridge. The northern Truckee map includes Donner Lake, Castle Peak, Tahoe Donner, and the Prosser area. The Sierraville map includes Jackson Meadows and Sierra Valley.
Residents presented proposed routes at the meeting and gave group feedback Forest Service staff will include in the system proposal. Several off-road users explored some of the proposed trails on the map to investigate current trail conditions.
Truckee resident Pat Davison said she and her husband ventured out to a number of routes on the Truckee north map. Davison said she saw a lot of hunters, mountain bikers and fellow four-wheel drivers on a trail through Castle Valley. Soft soil conditions, trees down across the trail and steep hills were some of the maintenance issues that prevented them from reaching the vista point at the end of the trail. Davison said she found similar conditions on a couple of other routes and would like to see accessibility improved.
“I would fight for that,” Davison said, adding that on a scale of one through 10, the off-road routes she tested out would be a 10 because of scenic views and the “ability to get away, especially on hot days,” Davison said.
Further south, proposed off-road trails around Serene Lakes is “kind of” a hot spot because of Royal Gorge development, Maddalena said.
The biggest concern in the Sierraville district is the multitude of routes in the area, said Jeff Wiley, trail coordinator for Truckee and Sierraville Ranger Districts. The Sierraville region has more than 18 proposed trails.
Environmental impacts from trail routes is a deciding factor in the Forest Service’s proposal process. Off-road enthusiast Pam Rocca said she suggested the Forest Service should create more loops to connect trails in order to lessen the environmental impact from vehicle traffic.
Maddalena said the Forest Service hasn’t seen any “extreme perspectives” or concerns about new proposed routes from off-road users. Residents have until Dec. 22 to submit any other proposed off-road routes. Route proposals need to be indicated on a map with a description of the trail, why it should be considered for the route system, and what the trail is best suited for, i.e. hiking versus a jeep route, said Maddalena.
An analysis of the different OHV uses within the Tahoe National Forest route system will be completed by January or February 2007, said Phil Horning, Tahoe National Forest route designation coordinator.
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