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If the National Weather Service is forecasting accurately, El Dorado County will continue to get a significant amount of rain this week. The anticipated downpour is such that the US Forest Service has announced road closures throughout the Eldorado National Forest effective yesterday Nov. 29.
Forest Supervisor Kathy Hardy noted in a prepared statement Monday that all “native surface roads” more commonly known as “dirt roads” will remain closed until at least April 1, of next year.
“This is an unusual move for me to set a date for the beginning of the seasonal closure when the roads are not yet soaked,” Hardy was quoted. “However, based on the special weather alert issued by the National Weather Service, it looks like the coming storm will produce a considerable amount of rainfall. I wanted to give visitors as much advanced notice as possible about the impending dirt road closures.”
In past years the same roads generally close on Jan. 1, however “rainfall, soil moisture, road and trail conditions, and weather forecasts are factors that trigger a seasonal closure earlier than Jan. 1,” the statement noted.
“Many of the roads are on the edge of being too wet to drive on and the high probability of severe weather makes the pending seasonal closure a sensible decision,” Hardy said. “My desire is to keep the forest as accessible to the public as much as possible,” said Hardy. “The seasonal closure is designed to protect roadbeds and watersheds from damage and to protect water quality.”
Frank Mosbacher, public affairs officer for the Eldorado National Forest, included the following information in the announcement:
Roads subject to seasonal closure are identified on a map that is free-of-charge and available at all Eldorado National Forest offices and on the Web at: fs.usda.gov/eldorado. The seasonal closure does not affect routes in the Rock Creek Area of the Eldorado National Forest near Georgetown, which has its own route closure process.
Local off-roaders were taken aback by the announcement, according to John Arenz, vice president of the Rubicon Trail Foundation. Arenz wrote in a lengthy e-mail to the Mountain Democrat that neither his group nor Friends of the Rubicon Trail, nor Friends of the Eldorado National Forest were given early notice of the impending closure decision.
All three groups have been active for years in issues related to OHV use in and around the national forest and Rubicon Trail.
“It absolutely impacts OHV users significantly,” Arenz wrote. “Many folks who had long-term plans to visit a certain area between now and Jan. 1 (when the Travel Management Forest Order would typically close forest roads) will have to adjust their plans.”
Arenz then described a ripple effect as people plan a trip to another forest in a different area,
visit an area where there is no closure (Rubicon), cancel, or change their winter break trip plans completely.
“This will affect the local economy, as well as impacting trails and roads that are not covered by this closure,” he suggested. ” The Travel Management Forest Order requires this closure between Jan. 1 and March 31 every year, and allows the forest supervisor to close them earlier and/or extend them later. They get extended almost every year, but I don’t believe a closure has ever been instituted early, and certainly not more than a month early.”
Arenz further noted the possible impact to El Dorado County government agencies. The county Department of Transportation is responsible for road maintenance on the Rubicon Trail and the Sheriff’s Department provides law enforcement in the same areas. If off-roaders can’t use the national forest roads, they may move into the Rubicon area, which then adds pressure to the county’s maintenance and law enforcement capabilities, Arenz cautioned.
Contact Chris Daley at 530-344-5063 or [email protected] Follow @CDaleyMtDemo.