Snow berm meeting at the Rubicon trailhead

Working two fronts on the Rubicon these days: TNF and trail maintenance and Placer County and snow at the entrance.

For the record, I’ve been working with or fighting with Placer County over snow at the trailhead for more than three years. I’ve attended many meetings with former Supervisor Montgomery regarding this issue. Nothing came from those meetings.

Yesterday, a good group met at the trailhead: Placer County, Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and users. There were about eight of us.

My takeaways were that Placer County would move the winter parking rules sign closer to the road (Evergreen Way) and mount it higher. The plow operators would try and recognize the Rubicon as a driveway. Placer would try and reach out to the local snow removal contractors and the local homeowners association.

Placer County is going to try and get a local community meeting set up for January in Tahoe City to try and get everyone in the same room to work out solutions.

The commercial snow removal contractor that cleared the trail a number of times last winter was on hand. He offered to occasionally use his equipment to clear the berm as needed but not regularly.

Ideas that were also discussed were notching the berm so any ramp built would not interfere with traffic on Evergreen Way. Placer thought this might promote parking in that notch thus blocking the trail.

Other thoughts were to groom or plow the first part of the Rubicon, either to the quad parking area or all the way to the staging area. This would need a grant written to fund those ideas. Maybe in the next few years.

The entrance will probably get large 4×4 markers to let everyone know exactly where the trail starts. We are also discussing putting up a warning sign. I might have shared it here before:

This sign would be put in two places, about 200 yards up from Evergreen Way and on the trail just after leaving the staging area.

In the end I was happy at how things had moved forward, then Peter Kraatz sent out a late email last night.

Peter asked if we could “table” the use of commercial equipment until he could work out a few things as use of that equipment could bring complaints. This point was at the heart of getting and keeping access.

This morning, I fired off a email to the group that has been talking about this for weeks, Peter included. I told Peter “No”, I would not back off on the use of commercial equipment and that he had until the berm gets built up with snow fall and illegal dumping to get his act together.


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


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


Snow Berm Gone!

“This is the Trail. Tahoma, CA. I work here…I’m a volunteer. The story you are about to read is true. The names have been changes to protect the innocent.

On January 27th, me, Wheeler “A” and Wheeler “B”, arrived at the entrance to the Rubicon Trail. Wheeler “A” had brought a piece of commercial snow removal equipment. The objective: Remove The Berm.

The berm was about 4-5 feet tall when we got there.

The berm had gone up over the course of the winter season. It’s appeared every season for years. Dumping snow anywhere but from the lot it came from is illegal. The berm is illegal.

We thought Placer was doing it. I’d heard several second hand accounts from witnesses who saw Placer dump and pushing snow at the trailhead. Nothing first hand.

Placer denies dump or pushing snow at the entrance. We’re now thinking it’s a local snow removal contractor. We don’t need to catch him and charge him, we just want the dumping to stop. But if it doesn’t stop, we will catch him and get the county to fine him.

It was time to take action in to our own hands.

Wheeler “A” unloaded his rig and got to work. I stood on the berm, off to the side, and made sure anyone coming off the trail didn’t get a snow shower. Wheeler “B” stood in the street and talked with anyone walking by.

Wheeler “B” approached one neighbor who came out and took pictures but she ignored him and went back inside. Later, a Placer County sheriff stopped by after a complaint had been filed by someone in the area.


The sheriff had no issue about what we were doing after we explained that Placer County had given us permission to clear the entrance.

It didn’t take long before Wheeler “A” had cleared the entrance to the Rubicon Trail. We figured three hours, including travel time.

Not five minutes after heading to our rigs to leave, a stock Toyota Tacoma and F150 pulled up to the entrance. It was in 2wd and didn’t make the small rolling dip left at the entrance.

That gave me time to walk up and talk to him. I encouraged him not to try the trail without a winch and a better equipped rig. He said he wouldn’t go too far. I gave him two of my trail brochures with a map and wished him well. He put it in 4wd and headed in.

Please remember that there is no street parking this time of year.

Happy wheeling.

Rubicon Ronin

For those of you too young to catch the wording of the intro, it’s from Dragnet, an old cop show from the 60’s. You Tube the opening scene for every show.