Letter to the Editor Spring 2009

To the Mountain Democrat  March 2009

Quading in the El Dorado Forest (And Winter Closure)

I have lived in the Pollock Pines area for twenty nine years and always wanted to explore the forest but I never really was in to hiking. I always love boating and water sports and still do but I have nothing to do in the fall, winter and spring since I don’t snow ski much anymore. I wanted to have an activity that I could do with my family that would be year round.

Two years ago, at age 53, I decided to buy a Suzuki King quad for my wife and son and a Kawasaki quad for me and join the Quaders that drive up and down my road all the time and ride in the forest. I wanted to drive every dirt road in the forest and see every creek, stream, waterfall, meadow, canyon, forest and wildlife I could see. I went to the El Dorado National Forest Service Information office in Camino and they were happy to provide me with a Motor Vehicle Restrictions Map in which, after a few times of trying to use it, I found that it was of no use. Most of the roads were miss-marked. It didn’t distinguish the difference between dirt roads or paved roads; which on a quad is most important, as it is illegal to drive on paved roads.  So, if you planned a trip and came upon a paved road, your trip was finished. I found that the only way to travel with a quad in the forest is to leave bread crumbs like Hansel and Gretel so you could find your way back. Over the last two years I have traveled many dirt roads, some that maybe I shouldn’t have been on. The logging Industries own more forest land than you would ever imagine and the land is all gated off. This means it is hard to plan a trip across the forest without coming to a gate blocking the way. I found that when the roads are wet, not muddy, there isn’t dust for the riders behind you so many people like to ride in the fall, winter, and spring when the dust level is the lowest. But, now the Forest Service has a new law this year that closes the forest to off road vehicle use from Jan. 1st through “when they feel like opening it again”. It looks like this year roads will be open April 16th. Consequently, there goes our family’s year round quading activity without driving bazillions of miles when the forest is just down at the end of my road.

I don’t agree with the winter closure of all the roads. It’s got to make sense to me somehow. The Forest Service said they closed these routes to protect water quality, prevent erosion, and reduce damage to roads and trails. If they really wanted to do this they would not have let the recent logging activity take place in the forest. In the Po Ho ridge area, Arens Bros. Logging has been cutting for miles through that part of the woods and leaving plenty of open dirt from grading the roads and pulling out trees through the forest without any erosion control. They seem to spend more time and money making berms and digging trenches to keep people out of the forest than they do on erosion control. If a person was having grading done for a house, the County would make you put down straw or some kind of erosion control. Before the Loggers started to tear things up, the roads had pine needles covering the dirt, and trees and shrubs growing over from the sides in which we had to bob and weave to get through – making for fund and adventure. The roads had some pot holes with murky water in them but you would not sink in the mud, it was hard packed soil. There were only a couple of places that actually had mud and if the Forest Service poured some large three inch gravel in those spots, like what was done over in the Peavine Ridge area, problem solved. I think that logging is the biggest part of the erosion, and water quality problem, not quading. But, I’m sure that the green sticker that you pay for when you register your OHV doesn’t match the money they get from logging. Could it be that the forest service needs to make more revenue in these slow economic times by issuing fines during their slow time of the year?  Just my thoughts.

I do think that too many people on two wheel drive quads and motorcycles travel way too fast on the forest roads and sling too much dirt off the roadway in the corners, causing some of the problems. They should stay on the roads and slow up in the corners. Remember, these roads are meant for travel through the forest, not as a race track. I am the kind of person that believes that you try to leave the forest the way you found it. And that also means; take your trash with you and take care of the roads.

This month, the four El Dorado National Forest District Rangers will each host a day when people can drop-in at their offices to talk about the designated travel system. The open houses will be hosted at the Georgetown and Amador Ranger Stations on April 18 and at the Placerville Ranger Station on April 25. Time of the open house is 9AM to 1 PM as far as I know.

They also have new and better Maps.

If you are interested in trying to change or modify what is happening with the Vehicle travel in the El Dorado Forest show up and speak up.

Harvey Bolton