Let me start by saying that I am glad that work is finally getting done on the Rubicon Trail.
What bothers me is the complete failure to communicate.
Again, the users were not a part of the planning for this work, the users were not made aware that the work was going to take place and the users were not allowed to volunteer during this maintenance effort. Or were they?
So, the Lake Tahoe Basin Managment Unit (LTBMU) was out on the trail last week rebuilding some of the rolling dips that were put in place way back in 2000. It is my understanding that the work was funded by the Rubicon Trail Foundation (RTF), but I have not confirmed that, yet.
The photos are not the best, but I blame the sun, or the shadows. This is rolling dip (always improperly referred to as a ‘water bar’) is number one. Back in the day, 28 of these were placed to prevent water from running down the trail. Back then, each rolling dip was rock lined to prevent erosion.
Unfortunately, the LTBMU did not consult anyone before doing the work. Obviously, they know absolutely everything. They must tour the trail every spring documenting the run-off from melting snow. They must know the best building techniques to build long-lasting rolling dips. Or not.
Where to begin. Many of the rolling dips that were rebuilt, shouldn’t have been. Of the original 28, there were a good eight that should never have been placed. But Placer went overboard. So did the LTBMU.
If you drive the Middle Fork Trail up Blackwood Canyon, you’ll see some absolutely great rolling dips. They’re HUGE. But the LTBMU did not build the same rolling dips for the Rubicon. These are mostly loose river rock that will break down and not last.
Some of the drains are dug well enough to work but others are not, or worse, don’t exist.
Again, some don’t exist…
This missing rolling dip is the old 7A designation. There is a creek on the right that doesn’t quite reach the Arizona Crossing (rolling dip #8). The water will continue to flow all the way down the trail to number 7, where it will be directed off the trail.
So, I alluded to the fact that the users might have known about this work. But the more I look at the email, the topic might have been other work.
Here’s the deal, on September 27th, the Tahoe National Forest (TNF) reached out about an upcoming work party for October 9th. It was a drain building/cleaning effort. I don’t know all of the names to whom the email was sent. But Friends of the Rubicon (FOTR) received it.
I honestly don’t know if the work party ever happened. But I do know that four of the largest four-wheel drive clubs on the Tahoe end of the trail never got the word. The Lake Tahoe Hi-Lo’s, Tahoe Donner 4-Wheelers, Sierra Stompers and the Hills Angels never sent out an email to their members about a work party. Reno4x4.com never posted about an upcoming work party.
So, who dropped the ball?
FOTR got the word. I’m not on that email list so I only assume it went out to the list as at least one person let me know they got it.
RTF knew about the rolling dip work, if they did indeed fund it. I never saw anything on their website about it. Just looking at their website, I don’t see anything about maintenance projects. There is an FOTR page.
So, how is the typical user supposed to learn about possible project in order to make comments before the project? How is the typical supposed to learn about scheduled projects in order to help out or avoid the trail that day?
It seems like nobody sees a need to get the word out. That’s disappointing as the users should know. The users should be involved. Volunteer time can be used as matching funds for grants.
If we could only talk to each other.
There is currently a severe lack of communication among those groups, agencies and individuals with an interest in the Rubicon Trail.
I provided an extensive list of questions to El Dorado County, after Vickie Sanders offered to put together the meeting. She reached out to all of the groups and agencies involved and asked those questions but did not get responses from everyone she asked.
Below are the actual questions and answers provided by El Dorado County at the Rubicon Trail meeting two weeks ago documenting the answers to those questions, by each group/agency.
The questions are in black, the answers from the respective agency are in blue. Note that RTF and FOTR did not respond. I have learned that RTF has answers to the questions but didn’t get them to El Dorado before the meeting. They did share those answers verbally at the meeting. I have since asked for those answers to be given to El Dorado County to be able to publish all of the answers together. El Dorado has not received anything from RTF. Although FOTR does still exist, we are told, FOTR and El Dorado County are not getting along, not talking, not planning any maintenance efforts together.
Everyone involved in the Rubicon Trail, regardless of their capacity, needs to get over any and all personal differences with others and do what is best for the trail. There are multiple individuals telling me that will no longer communicate with ‘that person’ or ‘that agency’. To me, that is unprofessional and is not in the best interest of the trail.
It might step on a few toes, but I will ask the question: “What would Dennis (Mayer) Do?” We all wore the yellow wrist bands, “WWDD?”, some for years after his passing. Some of us still have a yellow band in our rigs. Dennis kept it calm and down the center, regardless of how he felt personally. We need to channel Dennis and get back to working together.
An eight-page list of things to do was recently provided to those involved with the management of the Rubicon Trail. Someone needs to take the lead and get started on working on those issues. Let’s get FOTR back to where it was when that group literally stopped the trail from getting closed in 2000. RTF needs to work with Placer and/or the Tahoe NF and the Basin to get an adopt-a-trail/rolling dip/campsite going. The TNF needs to involve users in their maintenance decisions and efforts.
Maybe we turn this around to where the users demand to adopt spots along the trail. Maybe OHV clubs need to demand a list of maintenance items for the season. Maybe the users demand that the decision-making process not only be made public, but that every decision includes the public.
Do we need a threat of closure to bring back cooperation and user involvement? If so, it’s closer than you think.
We had about fifty people show up for the meeting Saturday morning. Sorry, no pictures.
The majority of the group were the regular players, El Dorado County, Rubicon Trail Foundation, Friends of the Rubicon, CA Off Road Vehicle Assoc., Nevada Four Wheel Drive Assoc., Forest Service and private property owners, but there were, of course, the users.
Vickie Sanders of El Dorado County lead the show. She reviewed the list of questions submitted to the governing groups and agencies prior to the meeting. Most of those groups and agencies were there to expanded and clarified on those answers. I am trying to get an electronic copy of the questions and answers to post up, stay tuned.
Placer County was a no show. They did provide written answers to the questions sent but did not provide a representative at the meeting.
El Dorado County has obtained and spent 35 million dollars of OHV grant funding on the trail to date! Helicopters will fly this summer working from Arnold’s Rock to the Springs. RTF will fund heavy equipment to rework the rolling dips within the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. RTF will manage opening the Tahoma staging area bathrooms earlier in the season and keeping them open later in the year.
Tahoe side adoptions are possible but not yet organized: sections of the Rubicon Trail, rolling dips within the LTBMU and campsites along the trail.
Parking at the staging area was discussed and will likely include no parking along the outside edge of the staging area to allow a permanent ‘through route’ for users and more specifically emergency equipment.
The hot topic was the always reappearing Snow Wall. Somehow, an excess of snow is appearing at the Rubicon Trail entrance. Placer County claims they are plowing linerally, only a blade pushing snow to the side. Yet they have and use a rotary blade in the area. Placer is standing by their current practices. Hopefully, a meeting will be scheduled that will include Placer County, OHV users’ groups and the local residents to finally come to a solution to this issue. Many solutions were documented and will be followed up on.
Another longer-term thought would be to make the Rubicon Trail a Sno-Park, similar to Blackwood Canyon, but allowing wheeled vehicles. Plow the road up to a parking lot where OHV users could bring in a trailered rig. Yes, there would be a parking fee associated with the Sno-Park. We anticipate that the local residents would strongly oppose this idea. This was only a thought; no action will be taken at this time.
Better communications were promised both between those involved in management and communications to the users.
El Dorado County, Placer County and CA State Parks LEOs have entered into their own MOU to ensure law enforcement across the entire Rubicon Trail.
The suggestion has been made that a similar meeting needs to take place every year, in order to continue the open communications. These meetings could rotate through different cities: Reno, South Lake Tahoe, Truckee, Placerville, Auburn and Sacramento. Stay tuned.
Overall, it was a good meeting. We needed to get people in the same room and away from their keyboards. Nothing was solved and Placer was a no show, but we are moving in the right direction.
Hopefully, I’ll have those questions and answers to post soon.
-aka, Rubicon Ronin