On July 26, 2016, we had our second meeting between the Forest Service, OHV representatives, and Congressman Paul Cook’s office. Attending the meeting were Marc Stamer and Josh Direen from the Forest Service, Dakota Higgins from Congressman Cook’s office, and Loren Campbell (IE4W), Don Alexander (Backcountry 4x4), and Quinn Thomas (Bear Valley 4x4) Angela Cook was scheduled to attend from SBNF Friends (SBNFF), but was unable to make it due to illness.
The meeting was opened by a discussion of our conversations with other OHV users and getting a clearer picture of the Forest Service’s objectives. It was understood and agreed by everyone that the desired outcome was to come up with a plan that would protect and preserve the roads, especially in times of high moisture content in the soil, as well as forming a partnership with the Forest Service and OHV users to work together in addressing issues in the future. Marc made it clear at the very beginning that the initial notice that the description of the closures as seasonal should have been described as temporary rather than seasonal. Marc asked if we had a recommendation about what conditions would justify a temporary closure, and we debated several conditions such as depth of the snow and long rain soaking storms. It became clear that it will require more thought to be able to define clearly what conditions might be prone to damage the road bed. We then began focusing on what AAT and member clubs could do to prepare road surfaces, problem areas, and repairs that AAT could perform on the roads. The solution is to develop an agreement between the Forest Service and SBNFF that will not just focus on 3N16, but will allow us to be used throughout the Forest. SBNF will then enlist the support of Member clubs to help maintain and protect the roads. We identified 3 specific problems areas being of primary concern to start on, and agreement regarding the actions to be taken on each of the areas as follows:
-- Illegal widening of 3N16 by Holcomb Valley Campground. This area already has large boulders bordering the road, but they were too far away from the road edge to prevent people from driving off the road to avoid the speed bump. The plan to repair this area is to move the boulders closer to the road edge and fill the holes.
-- Marc and Josh asked for specific help on a section of Polique Canyon where a bypass of the road into a mud bog has occurred. Recommendations will be to repair the rutted area, and block off the bypass using a combination of grading, fallen timber, and plantings.
-- There is a dip in the road at the east end of Holcomb Valley where the meadow drops to a lowpoint that always collects water, Bypasses around the deep ruts are common creating a widening of the road and erosion into the meadow. One of the possible fixes for this might be the use of a corduroy road in the dip to both slow traffic and to provide better drainage of the area. Corduroy roads are used in the Sierras for this purpose, and recently one was put in on Holcomb Valley. Josh will check to see if this could be allowed on a Level III road that by definition is supposed to be driven by passenger sedans. This area will require some engineering thought about the best fix for this, and will be a future project.
The need for gates to affect the temporary closures was discussed at length, and the recommendation of the OHV representatives was to work on a solution that avoids the installation of gates by assisting the Forest Service in taking over the maintenance of the roads in problem areas. Marc again reaffirmed a point that he made at our first meeting that he would felt it was necessary to have the OHV community be the primary monitor of the road conditions for the Forest Service and to make recommendations for closures or openings to protect the roads.
Other items discussed were:
-- Re-designation of 3N16 east end of Holcomb Valley to Dump as a Level II road. This might have the benefit of having green sticker funds available for maintenance, but the downsides of having it available for all green sticker vehicles with no real access at either end would be a problem. This item was tabled.
-- Signage- Improving signs that indicate trail difficulty was discussed, especially where multiple types of users exist on a trail.
-- We will also look into posting “Road Condition Advisory” signs to warn motorists that may not be equipped for the current conditions.
-- The Mountains Foundation is working on a proposal for educational signage and this will be discussed with them.
-- Explore how the Rubicon Trail does their Winter Closure conditions due to high moisture content.
-- There are approximately 1200 miles of roads in the SBNF, and the Forest Service only has approximately $50,000 annually for road maintenance in the Mountaintop Ranger district. Loren asked Dakota if it would be possible to get any additional funding from Congressman Cook’s office to help service this area. Dakota explained that earmarks for additional funding were no longer allowed by the House, but that he will discuss the issue with Congressman Cook.
-- Stranded vehicle assistance - The primary resource for rescue of stranded motorists is the County Fire Department and Search and Rescue. Dakota mentioned that in Johnson Valley some of the Morongo wheelers have become CERT certified and are called by agencies for volunteer assistance by club members. Quinn and Don said they would explore that with the local CERT team.
Action Plan items agreed on are:
-- Marc Stamer
-- Work on a draft agreement we can use to formalize the relationship between SBNF and the Forest Service. Because of contracting requirements by Forest Service, this agreement may be deferred till the 4th quarter 2016.
-- Will attend the next AAT meeting in September and the AAT BBQ
-- Will begin developing the SOPA for the EA allowing for temporary closures required to protect the roads. This will be in conjunction with NEPA guidelines
-- Josh Direen
-- Determine if corduroy log roads can be used on Level III maintenance designated roads
-- Determine clearance distance from edge of road to barriers. This will be necessary for the top 2 maintenance issues identified above
-- Loren will investigate how El Dorado County handles their winter closures of the trail. What conditions determine closure and how they notify the public.
-- Loren, Quinn, and Don will determine the best dates for a multi club work party, preferably in August. We will then recruit club members to address the area by the Holcomb Valley Campground and also the widening on Polique Canyon.
-- Quinn and Don will look into CERT with the local team in Big Bear for emergency response.
-- Dakota Higgins will attend our August meeting, and will also be doing a trail ride with Bear Valley so he can see the areas we are discussing. In addition, he was invited to attend a AAT work party by IE4W this weekend on 2N01.
Loren Campbell Don Alexander Quinn Thomas
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