The summer recreation season not only allowed residents and visitors the opportunity to get out and enjoy the outdoors, but also to become newly acquainted with a number of road closures on U.S. Forest Service land.
Crews with the Forest Service have been active the past few months working to implement the Travel Management Plan, which incorporates or excludes about 2,000 miles of non-system roads into or from the route system.
Forest Service Trail Coordinator Marty Hornick said crews have completed about 45 percent of the total planned closures and between 20 and 25 percent of the mitigation (repairs) that were called for in the Travel Management Plan.
He added that the Forest Service has yet to place between 70 and 80 percent of the signage that is planned in the project.
Most of the work that has been done took place in Mono County, near the Mammoth Lakes area. Hornick said that approximately two-thirds of the Travel Management work will take place in Mono County.
Speaking of the work that was completed this summer, Hornick said, “we would have loved to get more done, obviously, but I’ve been very impressed with the accuracy of the crews doing the work.”
While the Forest Service is celebrating a summer of progress on the Travel Management Plan implementation, some residents are concerned over what they’ve encountered on their favorite roads and trails.
Kathy Davis of Darwin said two of her favorite camp sites, one near Lee Vining and one near Westgard Pass, have been closed.
Davis said it is not so much the closures, as the way Forest Service crews went about it that has upset her.
“The big issue I have was the manner in which they were closed,” Davis said. “They just took rocks and limbs and threw them over the camp site. They don’t realize these shrubs they’re pulling up could be older than we are.”
Another Southern Inyo resident, Michael Mideke, said two of his favorite areas, Badger Flats and Mazourka Canyon, have had similar “repairs” done this summer.
“Up Mazourka Canyon Road, there was a road that went up a canyon up there, and they closed it by dumping rocks on the road,” Mideke said. “My feeling is that that’s uglier than the initial dozer cuts the guys who made the road made. It seems like the whole process is not really thought out.”
Both Davis and Mideke said when they first saw the work the Forest Service had done, they thought the roads and camp sites had been vandalized.
“They’re doing this all over and it terrifies me,” Davis said. “Not just the closure, but what they’re doing to the land. It’s not right.”
In addition to the damage Davis said she saw to local foliage, she said some of the closures she has encountered have created concerns for her about parking for those heading to trailheads on Forest Service land.
“They need to be sensitive to the needs of the users to the Forest and have adequate parking for the trailheads so people aren’t parking on the shrubs or in the road.”
Hornick said he has heard from some residents who have had complaints or concerns about the implementation of the Travel Management Plan.
“As we go, we are refining our technique,” Hornick said. “We have a lot of crews doing a lot of things throughout the valley, and by letting us know when you see something, we can go out and see if it’s consistent with what we want.”
Hornick also said that the Forest Service has a team of specialists, comprised of botanists, archeologists and biologists who survey each site before work begins to ensure no cultural resources or rare or endangered plants or animals are disturbed by crews.
As to concerns about aesthetics and the manner in which the Forest Service is closing the roads, Hornick said that, “temporarily, we could be creating an impact, but in the long-term, the hope – the goal – is to have a reduced impact. If we do nothing, a road could have long-term impacts that never stop.”
With the work that is being done, Hornick said in 20-100 years, the impacts will be greatly reduced.
The U.S. Forest Service has a preliminary map that shows where each of the three projects (road closures, signage and mitigation) have been completed. Hornick said more comprehensive information on exactly what projects were done and where will be available in the coming months.