Chuchupate Camp, Showing Signs of Change
LOS PADRES CONCESSIONAIRE CHANGES
Big changes within the Los Padres are upon us, perhaps you’ve heard, if not, then brace yourself… For the past three decades the Los Padres National Forest has relied on as many as six different privately run concessionaires to help manage some of the campgrounds, day use areas and trailheads around the forest. You’ve seen these concessionaires at the campgrounds along Paradise Road, at Wheeler Gorge Campground, McGill, Bottcher’s Gap, Cerro Alto, Kirk Creek, etc, the list goes on and on. In an effort to consolidate these concessionaires, the Forest Service has selected Parks Management Company to become the sole concessionaire across the Los Padres. This went into effect November 1.
Yet, in addition to taking over the existing concessionaire operations and as part of their new agreement with the Los Padres, Parks Management will be adding quite a few new recreation sites to their list of concessionaire sites. This is where it gets a little painful, as some of the sites you’ve been using for free or as part of the Adventure Pass program are now going to be managed by Parks Management and will cost quite a bit more to use than in the past. Campgrounds like NIRA, Pine Mtn and Chuchupate, that used to accept a $5 Adventure Pass, are now going to charge $20/night. And certain trailheads like Upper Oso and NIRA, which also used to either require a $5 Adventure Pass or were free, are now going to cost $10/day to park. Ouch.
We’ve met with the FS and Parks Management multiple times expressing our concerns and hearing their sides of the concessionaire triangle. We all know how rundown some of the campgrounds are and we hear about how the Forest Service budget has been cut by 50% over the past decade. Like it or not, the FS doesn’t have the capacity to adequately manage all the recreation sites across the forest. As it was explained to us: with the current budget, it’s either accept a broader concessionaire program or run the risk of losing those recreation sites altogether. It’s a depressing situation and we’re not sure anyone knows a perfect solution.
While these price increases are going to be a tough blow for those of us who regularly use the forest, we’re already starting to see improvements at many of the campgrounds across the forest. These improvements include freshly painted bathrooms, new campfire rings, brush removal around campgrounds, new tables, etc…. For only being two weeks into their new agreement, it appears Park Management is headed in the right direction. Lets hope they keep it up.
One of the downsides of the new concessionaire plan is that it’s caused quite a bit of confusion trying to figure out which campsites require which permit. In order to help, we’ve created a GoogleDoc spreadsheet listing all the recreation sites mentioned in the concessionaire change documentation. We’ve listed all the sites, what the previous regulations were, previous costs and then what the current regulations/costs are:
As you will see, there is a lot of change. Most of it translates to more cost for the forest-user but hidden in the new program are some good changes as well. Some additional tidbits:
- Parks Management will sell a $50 annual day use pass that is good across the forest.
- The Adventure Pass remains in effect at select sites, see GoogleDoc.
- Parks Management will provide 50% campground discounts with the America the Beautiful annual passes.
- Many of the Parks Management campgrounds will be available for online reservation but they will keep some first-come-first-serve sites within the campgrounds as well.
As mentioned, this change went into effect November 1 and Parks Management expects it to take a few months in order to get all the iron rangers installed and signage changed across the forest. It’s going to be a tough pill to swallow, especially as we all learn what exactly this means and what the long-term ramifications are of this program. Lets hope that this is a positive in the long run.
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Autumn Super Moon, photo Humphrey
It’s been a minute since we sent out a forest update. Amazingly, quite a few of you missed the update and checked in asking if everyone was going okay. The answer is YES, things are great, just a little too busy the past month to put one of these emails together. Since it has been a while, we wanted to send out an update on the current conditions, closures and restrictions across the LP.
LEVEL IV FIRE RESTRICTIONS
The forest remains in Level IV fire restrictions, which means no campfires, no target shooting and no stoves outside of designated campfire use sites. You can see the restriction order here. While the forest has received some substantial rain this season, the fire restrictions are generally not lifted until the entire forest receives at least two inches of rain. Last year the restrictions were not lifted until early January. There are rumors that the restrictions may be downgraded to allow portable camp stoves in the backcountry, if anything changes we’ll let everyone know.
SOBERANES FIRE CLOSURE
The Soberanes Fire burned over 130,000 acres across Monterey County from July 22 until October 22. Soberanes ended costing more to fight than any fire in US history. In response to the fire, the Forest Service closed the Monterey Ranger District on September 2 and that closure remains in effect. While the Soberanes Fire is 100% contained, it continues to burn and smolder within the fire perimeter. No news on when the closure will be modified but we expect the fire perimeter to remain closed at least until the end of next spring. We’ll keep you posted…… In the meantime some of the campgrounds along the Big Sur Coast have reopened. The Forest Campgrounds off Hwy 1 are open as well as Andrew Molera State Park. If you’re planning a trip through Big Sur, be sure to check on campground availability before you hit the road.
SANTA LUCIA RANGER DISTRICT
Many of the roads and recreation sites around Figueroa Mountain remain closed due to hazard trees. Fig was hit perhaps harder than anywhere else in the Los Padres by the drought and subsequent beetle infestation. Take a look at Figuera Mountain next time you’re in the Santa Ynez Valley and you can clearly see the swath of brown dead trees. The closure includes Catway Road, Figueroa Lookout, Pino Alto, Cumbre and East Pinery Road. You can read more here.
SANTA BARBARA RANGER DISTRICT
The Rey Fire perimeter remains closed within the SBRD. This includes all trails up the Buckhorn Rd above Upper Oso Campground as well as the burn areas accessed from the Indian-Mono Trailhead near Mono Campground. While there might be some minor adjustments in the closure order, we do expect the Buckhorn Road and trails to remain closed to hikers, OHV and mountain bikers at least through the winter. Stay tuned.
Also in the SBRD we have remaining closures as a result of the June Sherpa Fire. The closure mostly affects West Camino Cielo.
OJAI & MT PINOS RANGER DISTRICTS
Recurring theme, the Pine Fire closure from earlier this summer remains in effect. The closure specifically affects the Reyes Peak Trail and the Piedra Blanca Trail between Upper Reyes Creek and Pine Mtn Lodge. The Forest Service has been busy installing warning signs where the trails enter the burn area. While warning signs might indicate that people will soon be allowed into the burn area, no dates have been announced when the closure will be lifted. Hang tight……
The Ojai Ranger District announced their seasonal road closure schedule. This year the gates to Dough Flat (at Tar Creek), Reyes Peak (Pine Mtn), Cherry Creek and Nordhoff Ridge will close on December 16. The Pines Campground above Ojai remains closed due to hazard trees.
Mt Pinos District is doing something a little different this year and will be locking gates along their seasonal roads based on rain events rather than specific dates. The gates will close after the first large rain. This is a great approach and I’m sure most of us reading this are happy to hear about the change in policy. For more details or to check on gates, give MPRD a call at 661.245.0521.
Whew, that’s a lot of information. Let us know if you have any questions or if we messed anything up. Thanks everyone for the updates……
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McKinley Mtn View, October 2016 Mission Pine Working Vacation
A few upcoming dates, events, projects, presentations or things you might want to know.
If you have any forest-related events to add to this list, let us know and we’re more than happy to pimp your event!
December 3-4: LPFA VWR Headquarters Cabin Cleanup
December 18-20: LPFA Judell Trail Maintenance Project, details upcoming
January 21-22: UTMC Crosscut Certification, Chuchupate Ranger Station