Non-Motorized Winter Recreation Area
Snowlands Network is working to establish an approximately four-square-mile winter non-motorized area in the Anderson Ridge area on Highway 88 east of Pioneer and west of Silver Lake. This project, once thought to be very possible due to support from the Forest Service and initial talks with the snowmobile community, is now on hold due to changes in Forest Service personnel and opposition from the snowmobile community. Snowlands is looking for a prod to make the players come back to the table.
Note: In the above map the Silver Bear Snowmobile Trail shown is only a small part of its more than 50 miles.
The following is a brief history of what has transpired with respect to this project.
By 1989, the Nordic Voice, the predecessor of Snowlands Network, had already begun to lobby Amador Ranger District to improve the balance between motorized and non-motorized winter recreation opportunities in the Foster Meadow Road/Mormon Emigrant Trail area on Highway 88 east of Pioneer and west of Silver Lake. Anderson Ridge is a major feature in this area. Fifteen years of efforts fell on the deaf ears of District Ranger Judy Yandoh, who maintained that there had never been and would never be a conflict between the two user groups. Therefore there was no need for any changes in management.
However, Snowlands Network found sympathetic ears on the California Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation (OHMVR) Commission. The Commission voted not to fund grooming of the Silver Bear Snowmobile Trail for the winter seasons of 2002-03 and 2003-04. The Commission sited failure of the Forest Service to address conflict between uses and failure to take adequate steps to provide for all user needs as the underlying reason for no funding. Keep in mind that the OHMVR Commission no longer has this power.
It is important to understand that Snowlands' opposition on the funding of the snowmobile trail grooming was not based on a desired to eliminate the snowmobile trail, but rather a statement that the Forest Service should not be receiving money to groom snowmobile trails if they are not taking steps to adequately provide similar quality opportunities for backcountry skiers and snowshoers.
Jane Laboa became District Ranger for the Amador Ranger District about the time Snowlands was approached by the snowmobile community to discuss working together to solve issues related to conflict. There is reason to believe that the snowmobile organizations interest in working together was at least in part because of our two years of successful lobbying for no grooming funds for the Silver Bear Snowmobile Trail. Laboa supported groups working together to solve conflict issues.
In the spring of 2004 Snowlands received a telephone call from Fred Wiley, President of the California Nevada Snowmobile Association (CNSA). He asked if Snowlands would be interested in discussing options that would reduce the "fighting" that was common place between the motorized and non-motorized winter recreation communities. Snowlands' Marcus Libkind and Monte Hendricks met with Fred, Jay Dobler (Vice President of CNSA), and a couple of Forest Service personnel on March 16, 2004. The Forest Service was represented by Lester Lubetkin (Amador Ranger District) and Rich Farrington (Region 5). The Forest Service was there mainly to answer questions.
It was agreed that it was in the best interest of both recreation communities to work together if at all possible. Libkind suggested, and it was agreed, that we tackle the Highway 88 corridor. The reasoning was two-fold.
- Snowlands had marked numerous ski/snowshoe trails in the Anderson Ridge area between Foster Meadow Road and Mormon Emigrant Trail (MET, which is actually a road) where the Iron Mountain Sno-Park is located. This is an ideal area for skiers and snowshoers of beginner through intermediate ability to tour for a few hours or all day. Many of the trails can be combined to form loops. Visit www.BackcountrySkiTours.com/pages/tours_1000/1008_tour.htm for a map of the area.
- There appeared to be opportunities to extend the Silver Bear Snowmobile Trail system to the north. Such an extension would not conflict with 99 percent of all skiers and snowshoers, and would offset the loss of access in the Anderson Ridge area.
Two problems were foreseen with respect to extending the Silver Bear Snowmobile Trail, but are now non-issues.
- 4x4s are now banned from the MET in the area where the extension would be located. Therefore they no longer trash the road on which snowmobiles need to ride north.
- The Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division (OHMVRD) now provides a groomer for the area. This has reduced the cost of grooming the existing snowmobile trails and hopefully will help make funds available to groom an extension. There has also been a significant increase in OHMVRD funding.
On February 5, 2005 an array of people participated in a 50-mile snowmobile ride in the subject area. Participants included:
- Marcus Libkind and Mike Dooley from Snowlands Network
- Fred Wiley and Jay Dobler from CNSA and the local snowmobile organization
- Daphne Greene, Deputy Director and Tony Perez, then Chief, of the OHMVRD
- District Ranger Jane Laboa and Anthony Botello from the Forest Service (neither Jane or Anthony are with the District now)
- Miscellaneous other guests
The on-the-snow meeting lead to a summer on-the-ground tour of the area. Afterwards progress was slow. In October 2008, Snowlands was informed by Fred Wiley and Jay Dobler that they no longer considered a small non-motorized area in return for extension of the snowmobile trails acceptable. At about the same time Jane Laboa retired and Doug Barber, the new District Ranger, expressed no support for a possible trade-off.