Alpine County Winter Recreation Project
August 2007 was very special day for Snowlands Network. It was the day of the signing of the Alpine Winter Recreation Project by District Ranger Gary Schiff, Carson Ranger District, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. As a result, skiers and snowshoers can look forward to improvements in winter recreation opportunities in the greater Hope Valley area.
The main pro-muscle-powered winter recreation features of the of the Project are:
- Forestdale Closure – Winter non-motorized designation for the Forestdale Creek area for most of the snow season. This area is located just east of Carson Pass on Highway 88.
- North of Highway 88 Closure – Winter non-motorized designation for the lands on the north side of Highway 88 that include Stevens Peak, Crater Lake, and Scotts Lake. This area is located between Carson Pass and Pickett Junction on Highway 88.
- Red Corral Parking Area – Parking on Highway 88 in Hope Valley for access to a designated non-motorized area.
Those at Snowlands Network who have been working since 1992 on the snowmobile conflict issue at Forestdale Creek (click here for background information) know that the project plan is merely a blueprint and far from an on-the-ground reality. Some of the features of the plan, such as the parking area at Red Corral, are unfunded, and closing an area to snowmobiles does not guarantee compliance.
The project is really an unimplemented plan. Most environmentalists and muscle-powered winter recreationists who took part in the development of the plan would agree that the plan is a compromise. But if all aspects of the plan are implemented and all boundaries obeyed, the compromises in the plan provide improvements for ski and snowshoe recreation, as well as snowmobile recreation on the Carson Ranger District portion of Alpine County.
The benefits to skiers and showshoers include snowmobile closure areas and a new parking area that will improve access for them (see bullets above). Snowmobilers stand to gain improved access to the Monitor Pass and Highway 4 areas near Markleeville as well as expanded parking at Blue Lakes Road that includes overnight facilities.
However, many skiers, snowshoers, and environmentalists are concerned that the plan provides no remedies if snowmobiles trespass into the non-motorized areas created by the plan. This could effectively eliminate the gains sought by the muscle-powered community, while the snowmobile community’s gains are realized. A ray of hope is that the plan calls for annual reviews, and, at least on paper, the Forest Service talks about active enforcement. Snowlands Network is working with the Forest Service on enforcement ideas that implement remote sensing.
Marcus Libkind, Snowlands Network President, who has been involved in the Forestdale Creek issue since day one, said "We now have a plan that is not perfect but could be the basis for improved winter recreation for all in Alpine County. Both sides had to make difficult choices. Both sides got some things they wanted and simultaneously had to give in other areas."
Snowlands Network is now focusing on monitoring compliance by the snowmobile community to the Alpine County Winter Recreation Project, working with the Forest Service to obtain funding for the Red Corral parking area, and exploring the use of technology to enhance snowmobile monitoring.