La Brea Restoration Update

Mountain bikers enjoying the recently restored post-Thomas Fire Romero Fire Road.
The trail restoration was part of a joint project between LPFA, SBMTV, MTF, SBCTC and the Forest Service.
Photo Ray Ford
Hello Again Friends,

In case you didn’t see the Forest Service announcements on their proposed La Brea Restoration plans we’ve included some information about the plan below.  This appears to be the final opportunity for the public to comment on the La Brea Restoration so get your thoughts down on paper or screen and send them in before August 20.

Have a great weekend and we hope you find some time in the Los Padres while you’re at it.  If so, please share photos, we’d love to see how it’s looking and what fun you’re having……..

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Junction of La Brea Road (10W06) and La Brea Canyon Road (11N04), just across La Brea Creek from the newly proposed Rattlesnake Trailhead
LA BREA RESTORATION UPDATE
The 2009 La Brea Fire chewed up nearly 90,000 acres of northwestern Santa Barbara County within the Los Padres Forest.  Included within the fire scar were numerous trails, campgrounds and forest roads.  As we’re all too familiar with, there was some significant post-fire weather events (namely January 2010 and March 2011) that caused severe flooding and damage within and downstream of the La Brea Fire scar.  The biggest casualty of the fire and rain was La Brea Road and La Brea Canyon Road, which were popular high-clearance vehicle roads used to access the campgrounds and trailheads along La Brea Creek.  The La Brea Roads crisscrossed the creek many many times and the storm waters essentially wiped the roads off the map at each of these crossings and along many of the lower benches which the road followed.  In response to the damage, vehicle access to the La Brea area has been closed since the La Brea Fire (2009) while the Forest Service determines how best to proceed.

Since that time the Forest Service has been working to develop a restoration plan for the La Brea closure area.  They’ve organized field events to show the damage along La Brea and also reached out for public comment on how we believe the FS should manage this area.  The end result of this many year process is that the FS is recommending a proposed action for the La Brea Area which would essentially close the La Brea Road to motorized access while creating improved access to the area for non-motorized recreation.  Please read the fine-print here and below is a quick outline of the proposed actions (seeing attached map might help):

  • Reopen La Brea Canyon Road coming from Miranda Pine down as far as Wagon Flat Campground.  La Brea Canyon Road would then be closed to motorized travel at Wagon Flat both downstream along La Brea and also up towards Lazy Camp.  Wagon Flat Campground would get a makeover including six campsites, a new toilet and the establishment of a trailhead used to access Lazy and the lower La Brea area.
  • Kerry Canyon Motorcycle Trail would be converted to non-motorized.  The portion of road between Wagon Flat and Lazy would be converted to non-motorized single track and become part of the Kerry Canyon Trail.
  • Colson Canyon Road will be reopened down to the first crossing of La Brea Creek where a new trailhead will be established for accessing the lower portions of La Brea Creek.  La Brea Road will be closed to motorized travel from the new trailhead at the bottom of Rattlesnake Canyon both upstream towards Wagon Flat and downstream towards Barrel Spring Campground.
  • In addition there will be quite a few changes to some of the nearby campgrounds:
    • Colson Campground, Alejandro Camp, Kerry Camp, Bear Camp and Lazy Campground will be decommissioned with their camp amenities removed where possible.
    • Barrel Spring Campground would be reclassified as a primitive campsite since it would no longer be accessible by motorized travel.

We realize this is a lot to digest, especially if you are not familiar with the area or this proposal.  The Forest Service is accepting comments on this proposal through August 20.  You can comment here at this link.  Let your voice be heard!

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It’s another Los Padres sunset, Starin’ slowly ‘cross the sky, said goodbye
Sayin’ goodbye to August 15, photo Humphrey
FOREST 411
• We wanted to reach out and congratulate long-time Los Padres volunteer Steve Benoit on being recognized nationwide with the Enduring Service Volunteer of the Year award.  Steve does most of his volunteering with the Ventana Wilderness Alliance but his contributions and dedicatrion have certainly trickled down across the rest of the Los Padres as well.  Congrats Steve, we’re all proud of you!  Now you’ve just got to figure out a way to wear that award on a necklace or perhaps a full-size tattoo is in order…..

• Quick correction from the last email, the only trails which remain technically closed in the Santa Barbara Frontcountry are West Fork Cold Spring and Cold Spring (southern side above Montecito).  Thanks to Montecito Trails Foundation for the correction.

• Unfortunately the Mendocino Complex Fire in Northern California has now surpassed the Thomas Fire as the largest wildfire in California history.  Here’s hoping that the Mendocino Complex Fire retains that title for a long long long time…..

• It seems to happen every year or two but an Oregon woman driving south along the Big Sur Coast swerved to avoid an animal and drove off the cliff and onto the beach some 200+ ft below.  She survived for a week before finally being discovered and rescued.  Amazing story for sure, check it out here.

MAY the FOREST be with you

Hi Everyone – Good Afternoon,

Quite a week for celebrations we’ve had…… 

  • Monday was May Day: a celebration of Spring and the giving of flowers.
  • Tuesday was Teachers Day: even to this day we all have teachers, it’s never a bad idea to say thank you!
  • Wednesday we caught our breath.
  • Thursday was Star Wars Day: May the fourth be with you!
  • And today is Cinco de Mayo: you can read about the history of May 5 but generally associated with Mexican heritage, margaritas and family.

All special days of course, but here in the Los Padres we celebrated yet another event this week as well…….

LOS PADRES GATE OPENING DAY: May 1

Generally speaking, the seasonal road closure gates across the forest close December 1 for the winter and then reopen May 1 after most of the rains have passed.  This is a relatively new holiday as many of the seasonal gates have not always been closed but none the less May 1 now provides reason for many of us here in the LP to celebrate.  We won’t get into MVUM or budgets or politics or any of the other reasons the gates are closed, instead lets focus on the good news that once again road access to more of the forest is open.  Here’s the latest and greatest from each of the five ranger districts:

Ojai Ranger District:
– Three seasonal roads have reopened including Reyes Peak Road (Pine Mountain), Dough Flat Road and Nordhoff Ridge Road (permit required).
– Cherry Creek Road remains closed.
– All campgrounds and trails are open!Mt. Pinos Ranger District:
– All roads, camps and trails have been reopened except for Snowy Trail, Cerro Noroeste, Dry Canyon Rd and Tinta / Rancho Nuevo Trailhead Gate at the Cuyama River / Hwy 33 junction.
– This includes Grade Valley, Alamo and Santa Barbara Canyon.
The new Romero Saddle gate at East Camino and Romero-Camuesa Rd, photo USFS
Santa Barbara Ranger District:
– The news is not so good in the SBRD……
– The Romero Camuesa Rd, which connects East Camino Cielo with the Upper Santa Ynez Recreation area sustained major structural damage this winter and remains closed to all vehicles.  A cribwall section of the road was severely undercut near the junction with the North Romero Trail and will require engineering before the road can be reopened.  As a result, the Forest Service has installed a new gate at the junction of East Camino and Romero-Camuesa at Romero Saddle where the pavement turns to dirt.  Divide Peak OHV remains open, so appropriate OHV vehicles (<50″) can pass around the new gate and continue to access Divide Peak but there is no vehicle travel down to Juncal, Pendola, the Calientes, etc…….  Staging for OHV is now at Romero Saddle.  This is major news, we’ll keep you posted as progress develops and timeframes established.
– First Crossing along Paradise Rd remains closed due to storm damage resulting from the Rey Fire.  The Forest Service expects First Crossing to reopen in the next few weeks.  Currently Upper Oso and the day use areas off River Road are closed.
– No news on when or if Buckhorn Rd / Camuesa will be reopened for OHV use.  The Buckhorn was hit hard by the Rey Fire and with most of the road resources going towards public access roads, it sounds like the Buckhorn will have to wait its turn.  We’ll keep you all posted on this as well.
– Happy Canyon has been cleared and is open for 2wd passenger car travel.Santa Lucia Ranger District:
– Santa Lucia is a bit more fluid than the other districts.  We suggest contacting the District before heading out to a trailhead or location.  Here’s the latest:
– All paved roads are open including Fig Mtn Rd, Sunset Valley.
– The dirt roads in the Fig Mtn Recreation Area are closed, including Fig Mtn Lookout, East Pinery, Catway and Old Catway.
– Sierra Madre is open from Rock Front east to McPherson Gate.
– Miranda Pine is closed at the junction with Sierra Madre.
– Bates is closed.
– Rock Front is open.
– Hi Mtn Rd remains closed at both Arroyo Grande and Salinas River sides.
– Pozo is open.
– Colson Canyon is open to Colson Camp but remains locked at the Rattlesnake Saddle gate (more on that below, see La Brea!)Monterey Ranger District:
– The Soberanes Fire Closure continues to impact the Monterey district with most of the Ventana Wilderness remaining closed.
– Hwy 1 is still closed at Ragged Point (south) and Big Sur Station (north).
– Nacimiento Ferguson is open as well as Prewitt and South Coast Ridge Roads.
– All Forest Service Camps along Hwy 1 are open but access is only via Nacimiento Ferguson.
– Palo Colorado is closed.
– Pfeiffer Beach is closed.
– Pfeiffer Big Sur and Andrew Molera State Parks are closed but should open in the coming weeks.Whew, that’s a lot, are you still with us?  It doesn’t feel like much of a celebration when you see all the closures that remain in effect.  We had quite a winter (rain) following quite a summer (fire).  Maybe we should start a band and call it Fire, Rain & Earth.  The FS is working hard to reopen the roads.  It’ll happen.  Remain optimistic we must…….

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An Apple a Day, photo Aanjelae
FOREST 411

First Saturday Trail Project Ojai: May 6 on the upper Pratt Trail.  Meet at 8:30am at the Ojai Ranger Station to carpool to the Nordhoff Ridge trailhead.

La Brea Restoration Plan: The SLRD is hosting an Open House to discuss the proposed restoration project for the La Brea Fire closure that dates back to 2010.  Public is welcome, the Open House is May 8 from 4-7pm at the SLRD Ranger Station on Carlotti Drive in Santa Maria.

• Final LPFA Working Vacation of the season is May 20-29 at Madulce Camp in the Dick Smith Wilderness.  To learn more or to sign up, email INFO@LPForest.org or check here.

• Latest Figueroa Mountain Wildflower Update from our Forest Service wildflower expert Helen Tarbet, see attached.

Wood cutting permits are available later this month at the Chuchupate Ranger Station.  Dates are May 10, 24 and 31 from 10am – 2pm.  Call Chuchupate for more information: 661.245.3731

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Stay Thirsty my Friends, photo Humphrey