Map first step in organizing Tahoe trails
A Tahoe National Forest map showing a tangle of off-highway vehicle routes is the first step in a process that officials hope will eliminate redundant or environmentally damaging trails in the local forest.
After more than a year of adding routes located by aerial photos or by trail users, U.S. Forest Service officials say the off-road vehicle trail map is comprehensive.
Off-road groups, which have been included in the process from the beginning, have welcomed the process that they hope will create a system of organized and maintained trails.
“We have embraced the process,” said Don Klusman, a natural resource consultant with the California Association of 4WD Clubs.
Although a similar process in the El Dorado National Forest is on the verge of eliminating nearly 700 miles of unofficial dirt roads and trails, Klusman said that with public involvement he is confident well-used and important routes will be retained.
“If you have three routes from Point A to Point B then two of the routes are probably going to be closed,” Klusman said.
In the Truckee area, because of sparse vegetation and flat areas, trails and mountain bike features have sprung up in sensitive areas, said Rick Maddalena, recreation officer for the eastern portion of the Tahoe National Forest.
“I think we have a lot of exposure in the vicinity of Truckee,” he said.
The end result of the process, Maddalena said, will be an official trail system that is both extensive and varied.
“It has to have not only volume but quality,” Maddalena said.
The process will be a large-scale attempt to do what the Forest Service, in concert with user groups, has been doing for years.
“With the help of users, we’ve closed a lot of the redundant roads in the area,” Maddalena said.
One of the most difficult decisions the Forest Service will have to make is whether trails can be closed because of a lack of maintenance funds, he said.
“The toughest thing for us to measure is how fair is it to close a trail that we can’t maintain,” Maddalena said.
Trail maintenance funding has dropped steadily over the years, forcing the forest service to rely heavily on volunteer trail maintenance groups, he said.
“Right now our backbone is volunteer maintenance,” Maddalena said.
By the numbers: Tahoe Forest OHVs
1.1 million: Number off-highway vehicle visitors to the Tahoe National Forest (including Forest Service roads)
42: Number of citations were issued for illegal OHV use in 2004
648: Number of warnings were issued for a variety of other issues. By this summer, Tahoe National Forest officials plan to invoke a temporary forest order that will make it illegal to mountain bike or off-road on trails that are not on the map. The temporary order is meant to keep additional trails from springing up as forest officials review the inventory of routes and determine which are maintainable and which are damaging or redundant.
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