Meeting w/ the TNF: 12/18/19

In my last post, I really laid in to the Tahoe National Forest. I was not alone in my position. Those who held similar views gathered with me at the TNF offices this morning to converse with Joe Chavez.

It was a full room:

Joe Chavez – TNF head ranger

John Brokaw – TNF Truckee district OHV guy

Will Harris – TNF Archeologist / surveyor

Jack Sweeney – former El Dorado County Superviser

Bob Sweeney – President Jeepers Jamboree

Vickie Sanders – El Dorado County Parks & Trails

Justin (missed his last name) – El Dorado County Parks & Trails

Doug Barr – Lake Tahoe Hi-Lo’s Vice President

Callan McLaughlin – CA State Parks OHMVR

Brian Robertson – CA State Parks OHMVR

To their credit, the TNF acknowledged that they could have done a better job at reaching out to all the groups that have an interest in the maintenance of the Rubicon Trail.

Many expressed concerns over the dirt work done very late in the season. The TNF pushed back on this a few times noting they do it elsewhere and that a snow storm was coming in to harden the lose dirt berms and prevent erosion.

I think it was determined that such dirt work would not be done so late in the year due to proper planning and scheduling.

At the end of the day, I think everyone agreed that a better communications system needs to be in place moving forward. All agencies and groups will be in the loop. Formal open house meetings will take place prior to doing any work.

Hopefully, public meetings will take place to include the public in the planning process. We should be able to bring our concerns and thoughts about maintenance to the agencies responsible for getting it done.

One of the more surprising moments was when Jack Sweeney laid out the process that El Dorado County used to get an easement from the Forest Service. He said they stopped at the Placer County line only because they could not work in Placer County but that the argument for an easement within El Dorado carried through Placer County all the way to Lake Tahoe.

The other thing I learned was that there is a second document to follow the MOU. This second document should clear up the details as the MOU was very vague.

Concerns linger about who can and should write grants for the Rubicon Trail. The CA State Parks OHMVR Division recognizes that an agency can write a grant for the entire length of the trail. But, no two agencies can write a grant for the same section of OHV trail. So the El Dorado County and the TNF can not BOTH write grants for the same section of trail. All of the agencies will need to coordinate their grant requests so they don’t all get thrown out.

It was a good start at laying the ground work for getting all the agencies together, on the same page for future maintenance.

Tomorrow, there is a meeting with Placer County at the eastern trailhead to discuss the snow berm, illegal snow dumping and how Placer’s plowing adds to that berm.

Stay tuned…


Spider Excavator Work on Cadillac Hill by TNF

Here we go..

Last week, El Dorado County voted to approve an MOU regarding maintenance and management of the Rubicon Trail. The Tahoe National Forest also signed on. I do not know the date the TNF signed on.

In that Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), all the agencies agreed to:

A. Coordinate in the planning and management related to the Rubicon Trail.
B. Coordinate efforts to provide maintenance, interpretive, educational, and outreach programs with consistent messaging to the public and recreational users on the Rubicon Trail.

On Monday, just days after this MOU was signed, Joe Chavez, of the Tahoe National Forest, contracted a Spider Excavator to go out to Cadillac Hill to perform trail maintenance.

The Tahoe National Forest did not coordinate their planning with the other agencies in the MOU. The TNF did not coordinate that maintenance and did not do outreach to the public before starting this work.

Days in to this agreement and Joe Chavez, the head of the TNF is already breaking the rules!

Even thought Joe Chavez asked for and was given my contact information to get my input or cooperation, he never contacted me about this work. Fortunately, I was made aware of the work and decided to show up and watch the “show” as this is an extraordinary piece of equipment. Bob Sweeney of Jeepers Jamboree was also on hand Monday.

The work started just above Morris Rock as there wasn’t time to get the equipment down to the ‘swamp’ area west of Miller Creek. And that’s a good thing. Here’s the before shot:

The TNF directed the Spider to dig up hardened dirt to create a loose dirt berm to prevent erosion. Bob and I were not on board with what the TNF was doing.

Unfortunately, the work done I in the shade and hard to see, but it’s a berm of loose dirt that will get pushed down the trail with vehicle traffic and rainfall/snowmelt.

Although the lower creek crossing was deepened, the berm was not hardened.

Loose rock was placed at the upper hairpin and a drain was created off to the lower left of the photo. This material will end up down the trail, maybe all the way to the lower creek crossing.

This was typical of the rolling dips installed by the FS. I was able to talk Joe out of a few of these claiming there wasn’t a lot of running water on the trail. But he snuck in an extra in a few places he hadn’t planned.

If I weren’t there, the FS would have started moving the boulders around above this creek crossing! The crossing was deepened. The two logs were left in place below that dirt berm so even if the soil washes away, the logs will stay.

Another rolling dip/drain with loose soil.

You can see another rolling dip in the far distance. Joe is shown rolling a rock off the trail. A side trail was obliterated here (before I showed up Tuesday morning) as Joe wants to eliminate all side trails. I was able to talk him out of obliterating several longer sections but he wants to revisit those closings in the spring.

This rock was sticking up out (about a foot) of the middle of the trail enough to scare drivers to go around it, thus widening the trail. Joe wants to narrow the trail where he can. He left a hole in the middle of the trail that will grow and grow.

Some good work was done. The Spider moved around and half way buried a few of the larger rocks here to harden this section and to make it more appealing to users. I think the go around will stay but I know Joe doesn’t like it.

A decent place for a rolling dip but again loose soil and not hardened. Below Observation.

The before just west of Barker Meadow OHV Trail and east of Hummer Bend, looking east:

Looking west after blocking the very short side trail.

I was able to talk Joe in to 4-5 drains to get standing spring water off the trail. He was unaware of these issues on the Placer side. So there were some wins.

Potato Patch, before. The plan was to make this step a little easier, moving some of the stray boulders out of the center and create a ramp:

I think it worked pretty well but it won’t hold for more than 100 rigs. More rock needs to be placed to lock in the larger boulders.

The before on the hard line at Potato Patch. Many DEEP holes:

Some of the boulder from the ‘center’ were place in the holes of this section. It’s better. At least doable by more built rigs but will need more work in the spring.

That was the last work done by the spider. I skipped over many, many more things it did: questionable rolling dips, closures and really good drainages.

Obviously, we had a little snow moving in on us around noon.

Not all of the agencies are on board with this work. There will be some heated discussions moving forward regarding what gets done, how it’s decided and who leads the charge.

I will do everything I can to get in to those rooms and I will keep you informed.

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Rubicon Ronin, aka Doug Barr