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MammothMC, USFS, and State of CA rep meet at the GoodLife Cafe

posted Oct 7, 2011, 1:08 PM by Tony Burgess   [ updated Oct 7, 2011, 1:29 PM ]
3 Board members of the Mammoth Motorcycle Club met with representatives of the USFS and  State to discuss local OHV closures (and other topics).  FS representatives included Rick LaBorde, Marty Hornick, and Lisa.   Sixto Fernandez was also in attendance.  Sixto is more than just a sexy name; he’s actually the grant manager from the OHV Recreation Divison for the State of CA. 
 
 
  
So Sixto started the meeting by explaining what he does and why he came to visit Mammoth.  Basically, Sixto is the money man…  What the young people these days call “Baller.”  Sixto made the trip up to Mammoth to check on the different  groups (basically the USFS and Friends of the Inyo) that have been taking  money (aka: receiving grants)  from him (aka:  from your green sticker fees), and he’s making sure that they’re keeping their nose’s clean and do what they’re supposed to.  We liked to hear that these groups were being held accountable by someone – who knows what they’d be doing with the cash if they weren’t held in check?

After listening to what Sixto had to say, Mammoth M/C then offered up their side of what’s happening with his cash… and it wasn’t pretty. 

We told Sixto that FOI (Friends of the Inyo) have been “running amuck” in the forest – closing roads and erecting barricades like there’s no tomorrow.  We told Sixto that the Friends of the Inyo was a major player in the Route designation process, and like any organization… they had an agenda.  During the process, the FOI was using paid employees to scout out roads and decide whether or not they had “value,” and whether or not they should be closed.  Being a “wilderness” organization (with obvious ties to the Sierra Club), the FOI focused in on their agenda, and the single OHV user’s input was mostly if not entirely forgotten –  there was virtually no motorized singletrack that made the cut.  

Apparently those types of trails had no value to the Friends of the Inyo.   

Anyways, during the process, it was an obvious imbalance – and who could argue?  Eastern Sierra Locals (or local clubs) didn’t have the man power or the funds to compete with the FOI …   After all, they had a business to run and were getting paid to generate hundreds of access closing comments.  And now… during the implementation process we’re seeing it again.  The FOI is closing access to many of the same roads that they suggested be closed to begin with (convenient). 

We then discussed the manner in which these roads are being closed (i.e. barricades, logs, and tree limbs, etc).  The closures do a good job at blocking everyone and everything at using the trail, and no care is taken for non motorized users.  Joe also showed photographs (taken by an anonymous Mammoth Lakes resident) of trash and other stuff that was apparently left behind by one of these “work crews.”  Rick questioned the photos, and didn’t believe they were trash from a trail crew.  We’ll never know.   

We also discussed the closures (by FOI )  that were attempted out at the Inyo Craters parking area (2 in fact).  FOI attempted to “shrink” the parking area even after specific instructions not to.  

Unfortunately, since this was not related to travel management no one seemed to care much… nice.  This led to a heated debate regarding how "experiences" are different from "opinions".  Truths arise from experiences. 
 
We also talked about the tremendous amount of “system road” closures out by June Lake area that the.  It seems that June Lake residents are as confused as we are – what the heck is going on???   Marty was curious as well, and informed the group that system roads are not to be closed, and any closures of system roads are going to investigated and eventually reversed (if found to be true).   Marty stated that the Route designation process was aimed at only closing or including “non system” roads.

**** System roads are pre-existing roads that already have a designation or number assigned to them (i.e. 1S302..etc) 

The group then discussed the Shady Rest mtn bike trails.   Lisa, a current USFS employee, offered up her opinion to the group, saying that the many roads and trails around Shady Rest Park were in fact closed to both motorized and non-motorized.  She said that they’re closed so people will not use them – that’s the whole point.  As you can imagine, this caused quite a stir within the group, and Lisa was quickly    “re-educated…”   Mammoth M/C as well as FS personnel informed Lisa that these roads are OPEN to non-motorized use – Travel management is for motorized only.  We understood why Lisa was a bit confused by this fact, as nothing makes sense when it comes to travel management.  Lisa also suggested that if we have any complaints that we should write it down and send it in.   

I told Lisa that I’m getting tired of the e-mails, and they don’t seem to accomplish much. 

Rick and Marty then helped me understand why these mtn. bike trails were altogether closed without any care to non-motorized users.   They explained that these so called mtn. bike trails aren’t “official” mtn. bike trails at all… and aren’t on any map stating such.  The arrow signs that have been placed there weren’t “officially” done and they aren’t “officially” recognized as a mtn bike trails…  That being the case, FOI was correct in lumping them in with motorized roads…. Rick also added that if FOI had made a pathway through the closure (for non motorized users) it would only invite motorcycles to break the law and ride through them.   

I can picture it now…  A “mountain bike travel management” program in the near future – and Sixto can provide us green sticker cash… and we can have the girl scouts head up the work parties to close them! 

Don’t laugh… 

I’m dead serious.    J

I appreciated the explanation, no matter how weak, but couldn’t recognize it as a valid one.  It’s not up to Rick (or anyone for that matter) to interpret what “could” happen…  As a federal  organization (for the people), the Forest Service should be concerned about who’s being affecting by these closures, and whether it serves the public...
 
Sixto did a fine job of moderating and suggested that our 'beef' was not with the FOI but rather the USFS.   He also commended the InyoNF and stated that other NF's aren't as open and often do what they want (N.CA was mentioned). Ultimately, Sixto gave his/our $600,000 stamp of approval to FOI.
 

(Sixto tossing dirt in J-Bone)

Marty offered that we meet again to discuss these important issues (valid), and I agreed…  But shouldn’t we have taken our time in the first place….  And maybe involved the public a little more in the implementation process…  So we wouldn’t have to take 2 steps forward and 3 backward?    

Nevermind, don’t answer that.   

Growing tired, I then asked Marty and Rick (since these trails are completely legal to use for non motorized) if it was ok to remove the various branches and trees limbs that the FOI had placed there (so I could access the trail with my mtn bike).  They agreed, and said that as long as I do not remove the posts and signs, I could legally ride around them or create a walking path or mtn bike trail through them (or wheelchair access).    

I was happy to know this, and look forward to fixing the many trails I enjoy riding with my mtn bike (and walking on with the dogs).

Rick then brought up the idea of a NEW signed OHV loop from Mammoth to June Lake… and expressed a desire to work with our club on the project.  I liked this idea very much, and I’m more than willing to help lay out a fun and exciting route. 

We shall definitely keep you posted on this new development.

In the end, the group said their goodbyes, and before we departed Rick complemented me (MammothMC el presidente) on our colorful and informative mammothmc.com website! 
 
editor's notes:
Big thanks to Miguel at the GoodLife Cafe and his staff for putting up with a lunch ticket separated 7 ways, and for the food - we appreciate your great service and your week day all-you-can-eat specials.
 
Thanks too to Marty for keeping a level head and not being afraid to get into the mix.  More USFS personel and NGO's would be likened to follow his example.
 
 
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