Forest Service needs help locating off-road routes | SierraSun.com

Forest Service needs help locating off-road routes

Sierra CountisSierra Sun

Jim Grant/Tahoe Daily TribuneA group of four-wheel drive vehicles kick up some dirt along the Rubicon Trail, an established off-road route that winds through a portion of the Tahoe National Forest. The Forest Service is gathering public input to prepare an updated off-highway vehicle route system.

Dirt bikers, hikers and four-wheel drivers are working together to map out an off-road trails system within the Tahoe National Forest. U.S. Forest Service personnel Monday hosted a public workshop to draw off-highway vehicle routes near Truckee and Sierraville. The meeting was designed to gather public input, indicate where existing roads and trails are and to present proposed OHV routes. The Forest Service is considering a number of factors in the route designation process, including environmental impact, maintenance and safety, said Joanne Roubique, Truckee district ranger.One of the key points is that the national Forest Service provides recreational opportunities, said Phil Horning, Tahoe National Forest route designation coordinator. The majority of off-highway vehicle users are responsible. Off-highway vehicle use does have a place in the system.Inventory of existing routes began in 2002 and was completed by the Forest Service last summer, Horning said. 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. During Mondays meeting, 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 the proposed routes.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. Many residents raised questions about the Forest Services definitions pertaining to roadless areas, what determines a road and unclassified trails. Unclassified routes are historical or user-created trails, said Rick Maddalena of the Truckee Ranger District. All three groups identified missed and unmarked routes that the Forest Service will now try to identify. Residents and Forest Service representatives had a difficult time visualizing some of the trails, which caused some confusion during the meeting. Trails crossing through private property into Forest Service land creates a checkerboard of problems in designating public OHV routes, Maddalena said.For Serene Lakes residents, preserving hiking trails and prohibiting noisy motorized vehicles on routes was also an important factor.The information gathered by the groups will be presented at the next meeting in Truckee scheduled for Dec. 5. The Forest Service will use the public input to develop an OHV route proposal to be finalized by 2008.