Tracking down trails
Just west of Prosser Creek Reservoir a muddy Jeep trail cuts steeply east off of a main Forest Service road, crossing an area littered with prehistoric artifacts. What 18 months ago was a faint footpath is now a wide, double-tracked swath, part of an expanding spider web of off-highway vehicle trails that criss-crosses national forest land outside of Truckee.This newly-created road is an example of what initiated a five-step process to map all off-highway vehicle routes in 95,000 acres of national forest surrounding Truckee, said Rick Maddalena, the recreation officer for the eastern section of the Tahoe National Forest. The mapping plan could eventually prohibit use of duplicate, environmentally damaging, or unsustainable routes. The Forest Service is trying to get back to a network of recreationally and environmentally friendly trails, and the first step is prohibiting the unofficial trails from cropping up. “The first two steps,” Maddalena said while standing on the trail, “are freezing this in time.”
To keep the trail and road system from its unofficial expansion, the forest service must identify all existing trails. And the Tahoe National Forest is asking mountain bikers and off-highway vehicle users to help by pointing out any trails that are missing from the existing inventory. Freezing the Forest Service trail system is a huge first step, considering that off-highway vehicle use has grown by 31 million users in less than 30 years, and many of Truckee’s outlying areas where neighborhoods abut national forest are particularly susceptible to new trail generation. But the Forest Service hopes to have those first two steps completed by early summer of next year.After the map is complete, a temporary order will prohibit wheeled travel on any routes that are not on the map, so it in the best interest of the users of the routes to ensure that the map is comprehensive, said Maddalena.”What I think is important for people to do is check those maps and ask, ‘Is my favorite trail on here?'” said Maddalena. While officials have heard extensive input from the off-highway vehicle community, mountain bikers have been largely silent.
“Mountain bikes, when ridden hard on steep terrain will have similar effects [to motorcycles and dirt bikes],” Maddalena said.The effort to tighten up the existing trail network has met with mixed responses within the mountain bike community said Gabe McDowell, a bike mechanic with The Back Country, where a map of the off-highway vehicle routes is posted.”It looks to me that there are some [trails] that are missing, but … they have a pretty good chunk,” said McDowell. “For the most part they seem to have done a pretty good job.”But other mountain bikers that pass by the map have different reactions, said McDowell. Some assume the forest service is attempting to shut down many or most of the trails they use.But McDowell doesn’t see that happening.
“I don’t see them wanting to shut down perfectly good, well-built, singletrack trails,” said McDowell.Maddalena said that while the very end of the process may eventually lead to some routes being eliminated, it will also likely mean that additional, better built routes will be constructed during the process.”The route designation process will probably create the opportunity to create new routes,” said Maddalena. “I know that OHV users and mountain bike users will want to see a process that will lead to a trail system that actually works for people.”Check it outTrail users are encouraged to attend the meeting on the OHV designation process at the Truckee Donner Public Utility office at 11570 Donner Pass Road on Nov. 10, at 6:30 p.m. To notify the forest service of trails that have not been identified, call Tahoe National Forest Trails Coordinator David Michael at 530-478-6183, or Jeff Wiley, OHV coordinator for the Truckee and Sierraville districts, at 530- 994-3401 ext. 6667. Maps of the trails system can be found at area bike shops and at the Truckee and Sierraville Ranger offices.
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