The good news is…
On April 1st, the Eldorado National Forest will allow the scheduled opening of its OHV trails that were closed for the “wet” season. The forest has the option of extending the seasonal closure if they feel the trails are still too wet.
The bad news is…
The only ENF trail that is near the Rubicon on the Tahoe side, 14N39 The Richardson Lake Trail, remains closed due to four sections of the trail not meeting “Standard & Guideline 100” for meadows.
My goal is to work with the ENF and Reno/Tahoe volunteers to get at least the first three ‘meadow’ issues fixed. Optimistically, I’d love to see them open for Memorial Weekend; Fourth of July at the latest. As for the last ‘meadow’, I’d love to see a temporary fix in place before the end of the season. That section will require a reroute and that will take YEARS to finish.
Yesterday, I drove over to the Pacific Ranger District headquarters of the ENF. I met with Richard Thornburg, Debbie Gaynor and Charis Parker. We met for about an hour and discussed where we were with 14N39 and what was in front of us in the way of data collection, planning and implementation of the fixes.
The overall plan is that over the next three years, 1/3 of the trails will be reopened each year. The work will be done in two phases. The first phase will be anything and everything that can be done as ‘maintenance’; stuff that does not require extensive paperwork and expensive studies. Phase two will be everything that will require NEPA, EIS and/or EAs. The last issue on 14N39, will require a reroute and thus NEPA and more and is not even scheduled for scoping until 2015.
The ENF has hired a new hydrologist that will start in January. There will also be a FS expert brought in to help determine and approve any fixes to the ‘meadow issues’ throughout the ENF.
The ENF is scheduled to release an update regarding the ‘meadow’ issues across the whole forest in late January.
So, moving forward, the ENF claims that 14N39-1 and maybe -5 and -7 should be simple maintenance issues that once visited (again) will be fast tracked to completion. The ENF claims that not enough data was collected during the Aug 15 trail visit. They say that the new hydrologist and a road engineer need to visit each cite before they can sign off on the ‘fix’.
The ENF claims that this will be a quick process, like visit the trail on Wednesday and 9 or 10 days later, the volunteers will be on the trail working with the FS to fix the issues. The funding is already in place (for maintenance) and any equipment and material needed is easy enough to get in a week. With enough volunteers, I think the first three issues can be fixed in one weekend.
We will keep an eye on the trail this spring and once it is safe to travel, I will schedule a tour of 14N39 in order to get those fixes in place as soon as possible.