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.

.

Rubicon Ronin, aka Doug Barr


Onboard Air, on the TJ

Okay, new rig new upgrades. You’ve got to add and change a few things when you buy a rig to make it your own. Yeah, I’m hearing the ‘build it don’t buy it’ but it was a deal I couldn’t pass up.

Having taken the rig out a few times, it got old “borrowing” air to fill up my tires. So, I ordered up a few parts (thanks Amazon) and headed out to the garage.

The first issue was finding a place to mount the pump. There’s not a lot of free room in a TJ like I’m used to in a CJ. But, I found room behind the windshield fluid container. After a few cardboard cutouts, I built and painted the steel mounting plate. It mounted without drilling any holes.

The blue hose on the right is for the filter on the intake. It’s so close to the fender, the filter wouldn’t fit on the pump, so I went remote. Even the 90 elbow had to be cut down in order to screw it in to the pump. Yes, I should have screwed it in before mounting the pump. The second blue hose runs down to the bumper.

This winter, when I remove the bumper for more upgrades, I’ll build a bracket to hold the hose better. I’ve run an switch to the dash so I don’t have to pop the hood in order to fill the tire.

One of my pet peeves was having to continuously check the tire pressure when filling tires. So, I installed a regulator on the discharge side of the pump. Now, the most pressure I’ll ever get out is 28 pounds (it actually adjusts from 0-60). No more tire gauges!

Okay, this time I’m just lazy. I built a filler hose to fill all four tires at once. With this and the regulator, I hook up the hoses, flip the switch and wait. Once the tires get to pressure, the regulator no longer draws and the pressure switch shuts off the pump, once the pressure gets to 115 before the regulator.

It’s a small diameter hose, and I need to shorten them both for quicker fills and easier storage. And when filling all four tires at once, it seems to take forever. But you hook it up and walk away. Fourteen minutes later, all the tires are full an all to the exact same pressure.

Feel free to use this idea as imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

.

Rubicon Ronin


Control of the Placer Side

Control of the management and maintenance of the Placer County side of the Rubicon Trail is being decided right now. Literally, right now.

Until recently, Placer County has denied any authority over the Rubicon Trail. Lately, they have decided they want or have a hand in it but don’t want the day to day responsibility of applying for grants and to manage the maintenance of the Rubicon Trail.

Placer County and El Dorado County are currently working on an MOU (memorandum of understanding) that will allow El Dorado County the full legal authority to manage the Placer County side of the Rubicon Trail. To be clear, this will give El Dorado County authority over the entire length of the Rubicon Trail. My understanding is that they are very close to making this a done deal.

On the surface, this is a good thing. Placer has failed to apply for and receive steady grant funding and really has been hands off for years. Read as no maintenance has been done on the Placer side for years. El Dorado County has been extremely successful in getting grant money for the Rubicon Trail.

The down side is the lack of transparency. El Dorado County is currently working with Placer County, the Tahoe National Forest (TNF), the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) and who knows who else, in order to decide what maintenance gets done and when.

The Rubicon Trail Foundation (RTF) had been the representative for the users for 15 years. Lately, El Dorado County cuts ties (probably not the best term) with RTF. I’m not sure, but I’m betting that RTF is not in the room when these negotiations are being made. I do not know of any user representative that is in the room.

Worse, projects that had been on the books to take place this summer season have been cancelled. The LTBMU cancelled the installation of a new kiosk at the Tahoma staging area along with cancelling the paving of the staging area. They literally waited until the last moment to inform some of the users. Note, the funding for these two projects ahs been in the LTBMU’s control for years. The RTF had scheduled to bring in a contractor to rebuild the 28 rolling dips within the LTBMU this fall. Again, at the last moment, the project was cancelled. They didn’t tell anyone until I went asking about it.

Friends of the Rubicon (FOTR) who normally had worked closely with El Dorado County on trail maintenance projects has been dropped as a close partner and relegated to just another volunteer, ignoring their 20 year history of maintaining the Rubicon Trail.

I have been asking for information on what’s going on, where we’re going and who’s involved in making these decisions. I was told to call Vickie Sanders of El Dorado County. I replied that I didn’t want information for me but for all users. I asked that any and all information be posted for the public to view 24/7. El Dorado County and RTF have pushed back and said if you want information, call us.

El Dorado County is about to control our trail.  All I’m asking for is for them to explain how that process is going to work, how they will keep the users and volunteers informed and how they will allow the users in to the decision-making process.

I don’t think I’m asking too much.

.

Rubicon Ronin


Paving the Rubicon -the staging area anyway

Okay, that probably got your attention.

Well there will be paving, but only the staging area. This is being done to prevent erosion.

The plan is not finalized but it looks like we might lose one or more of the trees in the center of the staging area. The strip between the Rubicon and the staging area will be thinned, hopefully giving us another parking spot or two.

Here’s an overview of the staging area. The three structures in the lower left of the staging area are the two pit toilet and the oil spill depository. The depository will probably move and the NEW kiosk will be placed in that area.


The area below the structures is a seasonal pond. And in case you’re wondering, it would be very difficult and expensive to expand the parking area.

There was talk of putting down stripes in order to bring some order to the way people park in the staging area. But by putting down stripes, the number of parking spots would probably be reduced. I think the final agreement was to not put down stripes this year and see how it goes.

There will be a handicap area painted in front of the pit toilets. And there will be a few no parking areas in front of the NEW kiosk and in other places to maintain flow through the area.

Speaking of flow, there is talk and some agreement about making the first entrance to the staging area (coming from 89) a one-way exit only, again to improve flow through the area and to encourage better parking.

Here’s a set of photos to remind you of the area. Yes, they are old photos but the area hasn’t changed much.

Wow, as I posted those pictures I realized how old they are…2009!

The old Hi-Lo’s sign is gone. The two FS kiosks have been reconstructed in to one. I sold that Cherokee years ago.

And I don’t care what day you visit the trail, you never pull in and find only one vehicle parked there.

Rubicon Ronin