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Seasonal Closure of Holcomb Valley


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  • Seasonal Closure of Holcomb Valley


    This was posted on the SBNF website a couple of weeks ago.

    Don Alexander, Loren Campbell and Quinn Thomas had a meeting with TPTB in the SBNF and the following email is notes from that meeting.

    Originally posted by Don Alexander
    We would like to update you on the status of the proposed closure of Holcomb Valley. Thank you in advance for all your emails of support that were sent to the Forest Service, they were very effective in ensuring that the Forest Service now understands how important Holcomb Valley is not only to the off road community, but also other members of the community including cross country skiers, hunters, snowshoers, hikers, rock climbers and many others. That goal was achieved, and we are glad to report that as a result of that public voice of support that we had a meeting with the Forest Service on July 6. Attending the meeting was Don Alexander (Backcountry 4x4 and AAT), Loren Campbell (Redlands Jeep and IE4W), and Quinn Thomas (All J Products and Bear Valley 4x4), Marc Stamer (Mountaintop District Ranger) and Josh Direen (Forest Service Assistant Engineer) The meeting started at 10:00 and we left the District office at 3:00, so we covered a lot of ground, and we will try to cover most of the points we discussed, so please bear with the length of this message, but we want to make sure everyone understands what we discussed.

    Marc assured us that the post on the Forest Service Website was poorly written, and he clarified several important points.

    1) The seasonal closure of 3N16 should have been written as a temporary closure, the intent was to have short term (1-2 week) closures rather than for the entire winter season.

    2) The proposed action incorporates both a CE (category exclusion) and an action which includes the normal NEPA process. As a result of incorporating both in a single action, the project will be subject to normal scoping, project reports, public comments, and appeals processes. This was not clear in the website post, but will be part of the process.

    3) The main issues with the need for the closure are:
    a. Preservation of the Roads and Operating within Budget-The Forest Service has a limited budget for maintenance of all the roads in the Forest Service, and 3N16 is designated as a Maintenance Level 3 road, which means that it must be maintained in a condition that will allow normal passage of the road by sedans. Polique Canyon is another Maintenance Level 3 road. The easiest solution to reduce maintenance expense on the road was to propose closing it when conditions prevail that result in damage to the road surface.
    b. Public Safety- Several times a year, rescues of stranded vehicles are required to be made which are done by the Fawnskin Fire Department using their Snow Cat, which is a very expensive use of those resources.

    After about an hour’s discussion in the office, we then went out to review the issues that the Forest Service needed assistance with in road maintenance, beginning with Polique Canyon and then going down 3N16 and exiting by the Doble Dump. The issues that they pointed out included illegal widening of the designated roads that resulted in ruts and mud puddles, potholes, and poor placement of boulders that allowed driving off the paved road for illegal diversions. Nearly all of the maintenance issues could be done by Adopt a Trail volunteers and the use of AAT equipment by Certified Operators. Marc and Josh said that they saw no reason that AAT volunteers could not be used on Level III roads the same as Level II. There is a dip at the East End of Holcomb Valley that may be too challenging to provide a permanent improvement, but by taking over most of the other maintenance on the roads, the Forest Service can dedicate their resources to this problem area. We also discussed the possibility of changing the portion of 3N16 east of Holcomb Valley to a Level II trail, which does not require maintaining the road in a condition to allow passage by sedans, again resulting in savings for the Forest Service. Also discussed was the possibility of using corduroy log crossings on roads to slow traffic and provide drainage in sensitive areas.

    Marc asked if the OHV community would be receptive to short term closures if required by the weather conditions that caused deterioration of the road surfaces. He also agreed that when heavy snow was present there would be less impact to the road deterioration than when the snowpack was melting and the road was very wet. We responded that we felt that short term closures of portions of the road would be considered if that was the only option, but that we would prefer finding other solutions in assisting with road maintenance and even rescues of stranded vehicles. The Forest Service also expressed that the location of the proposed closures might be more limited, and we discussed moving closures to the West End of the Valley to Polique, which also would retain access to most of the trails joining 3N16.

    Marc said that he planned that the scoping would call for very specific road conditions to be present for the closures to happen, similar to the restrictions the logging companies have. Those conditions would be included in the Final decision for any closure to happen, and thus the Forest Service could be held to those requirements. The subject of installation of permanent heavy duty gates was discussed, but we expressed great concern that once they were installed, that it would be too easy for the Forest Service to lock them, and getting them reopened would be too difficult. Many other subjects were also covered including the opening of new Single Track routes and looking at closed trails for OHV, and quarterly visits with Marc to review OHV use in the Forest.

    As far as timing, the Forest Service was proposing to get the gates installed this budget year, but it is looking unlikely that it would happen until 2018 for budget reasons.

    We decided to take the results of this meeting and discuss it with members of the OHV community. Marc also agreed to begin attending the AAT meetings, and is going to start reaching out by attending the Bear Valley 4x4 Club meeting next Tuesday. If you are interested in attending, their meetings are held at Nottingham’s in Big Bear and start at 7:00.
    We scheduled a followup meeting with the 5 of us for July 26 to discuss proposed alternatives.

    We felt we made good progress for a first meeting, and many options and alternatives are on the table to find a better solution than originally proposed. The OHV community now has a seat at the table, but the best solution will require the community’s support and willingness to help on road maintenance projects on 2N09 and 3N16.

    At this time, there is no need to send any further support emails to the Forest Service.
    Over 2500 hours donated to the San Bernardino National Forest. Life member of CA4WD, CORVA & BRC. Tread Lightly Trainer. Reforestation Supervisor. CASSP

  • #2
    Well, I'm happy to see that this information was made available, and that the FS is exploring lots of different options. The AAT option is a very good one. It was a surprise to see the log road option metioned. After all the refusals and pushing and prodding it took to get a small one on 3N93. Perhaps ther will come to us for our experience with the building of this section, should that option be adopted. I wish I would have seen this sooner, I would have gone to the Bear Valley club meeting. I will try to make the one on the 26th. Thanks for posting Doug.
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