Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Thoughts on Mixed Use in Region 5

In response to a Jan. 13, 2009 “mixed-use” memo from Region 5, first let me state that I believe Region 5 has created an number of unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles when it comes to the designation of level 3 roads as mixed-use where that road is open for use by both street legal and non-street legal OHVs. I have shared those views with R5 on a number of occasions and in comment letters on travel management planning efforts.

It has been my experience that there is little – if any on some Forests – accident history on level 3 roads between OHVs and passenger vehicles. If there were accidents they were most likely OHV vs. OHV rather then OHV vs. a passenger car.

If there is a silver lining in that memo - it is the direction for encouraging Forests to reclassify a level 3 road to a level 2 road. I think that is a plan of action that OHVers could and should support.

The only other viable approach – and one that I hope R5 will support - would be to construct parallel (companion trails) or alternative trails that lead to the same destination or complete a loop opportunity. Many of those trails could be constructed basically in the road prism where there should be less environmental concerns or obstacles.

In my travels on Forests in Northern California, not many level 3 roads truly meet the conditions required of a level 3 road (site distance, signage, surface etc.) Those roads may have been originally designed as a level 3, but in this age of "no funding," most have deteriorated to level 2 status or maybe even should be reclassified as a road managed as a trail.

Again based on my experience, I believe that many routes that were designed as level 3, can be reduced to level 2. This would not only allow mixed-use opportunities, but would reduce maintenance costs and the liability of meeting the requirements of a level 3 road.

I feel that the Mendocino National Forest is going in the right direction regarding mixed-use. However, it is my concern that other Forests may be using the policy to close some routes and restrict public access. By doing so, they might be making those routes a little safer liability wise, but if the route provides a popular destination or opportunity with no alternative there will most likely be an enforcement problem.

It is my hope that through open and sincere communications between R5, individual Forests, state parks, and users that route designation and the issue of mixed-use can be addressed for the public good.

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