It’s Time to Reopen the Forest

The Hurricane Deck shed a few layers during the January storms. Remarkable seeing all the recent slides coming off the southern face.

Dear Los Padres National Forest,

It’s time to reopen the forest.

It was the right decision to close the Los Padres Forest on January 13 after the devastating rains earlier that week. There was so much damage across our region, so many closed roads and so many unknowns. Closing the forest at that time in order to focus on making sure people were okay was certainly a wise decision.

Since then, over the past 6 weeks, you have done a great job of clearing roads, repairing infrastructure and leading the forest-wide damage assessment effort. Many of your partners, including the LPFA, have participated in these assessments as well. The LPFA alone has now surveyed over 200 miles of trails across the southern four ranger districts and altogether with other partner groups and Forest Service staff we’ve probably collectively seen most of the forest by now. The damage across the forest is unprecedented and certainly daunting for those of us who work to keep the forest trails open and passable. We’ve documented and shared more photos of trail damaging slides and gullies than we’d ever want to see. There is certainly a lot of work ahead of us in order to bring the trails back to where they were before the storm damage. It’s going to take some time for sure.

The Forest Service has been busy clearing roads, photo Beeman

While the extent of the trail damage is significant, we have not seen the type of showstopper trail damage that would warrant the majority of the forest remaining closed. Most of the trail damage we’ve seen are obstacles that savvy forest-users can easily walk around or bypass. While that’s not ideal, we can’t wait for every trail issue to be repaired, that’s going to take years. We understand that there are going to be some roads and trails which will need to remain closed. Some of these select trail closures may last months and in some cases years. Speaking on behalf of the forest-users, we understand the damage and we’re okay with having some of the trails remain closed.

We also understand that we won’t have the same road and trailhead access this season as we’re used to having in the past. That’s okay, we just want to get back into the forest and go where we can. Please, it’s time to reopen the forest.

We realize there is a laundry list of things to do before a forest closure can be lifted. More signage is likely needed, information shared and of course continuous trail maintenance is always needed; more so now than ever. The trail groups across the forest have been working like crazy these past 6 weeks repairing as many of the bad sections of trail as we can. A lot of progress has been made and many of the most popular trails are currently in fine shape.

Let us know how we, your partners and forest-users, can help move this forward. There are thousands of volunteers across the forest who would love to help however we can in order to get portions of the forest reopened. We’re here to help, please let us know how and what might be needed?

It would be a shame to have another beautiful wintery-spring weekend come and go without people enjoying their Los Padres. It’s time to reopen the forest. Let us know how we can help make that happen.

Thank you for all your work – sincerely,

Your Forest Users

Two movies for the price of one…. a Gandalf at the infamous Cliffs of Insanity…. You Shall Not Pass! The Santa Cruz Trail needs to remain closed.
Oak Flat along the Sespe, how nice are those pools going to be? Most of the Sespe will remain hard to access due to the extended closure of Hwy 33.
The San Rafael Wilderness, prime Los Padres backpacking. The Forest Service has done a great job clearing the road to NIRA.
Where’s the trail? Some of the trails don’t exist anymore, keep your eyes peeled for recently placed cairns and flagging. Photo Beeman
Lots of road damage remains, making for long road hikes or rides just to get to the usual trailhead. That’s okay, right? Hi Mtn, photo Toejam
ll the usual forest-wide trail organizations are working hard to repair the gnarlier sections of trails. Helping to get the forest reopened.
Let’s do this! It’s time to reopen the forest. Photos LPFA & Montecito Trails Foundation.

Los Padres Forest: CLOSURE ORDER

A not so Happy Canyon Road, or what’s left of it, just below Cachuma Saddle. Photo Cragg

Hello Friends,

Due to the massive amounts of recent rainfall and subsequent forest-wide damage to trails, roads and infrastructure, the Forest Service has issued a forest-wide closure of the Los Padres Forest effective Friday January 13. The closure comes in advance of this weekend’s storms, which are forecast to dump additional inches of rain across the forest.

Obviously no one is happy about the closure, but there is just too much damage across the forest at the moment. In the days following the last storm, we’ve had many volunteers attempt to survey trails and forest roads. Literally every report we’re seeing, every attempt to drive a road, every attempt to hike a trail, is coming back reporting massive damage. We’ve seen damage like this in the past, but it’s largely been isolated to portions of a county or within specific fire scars. What’s different this time is that the destruction is at a forest-wide scale and even beyond that when you look at neighboring counties such as Santa Cruz, Los Angeles, etc…

The closure order states that the closure will last 60-days but we’re hopeful that it can be revised or modified on a local level as portions of the forest are surveyed, cleaned up and repaired. We are working closely with the Forest Service to help survey and document the damage and are looking forward to getting our boots on the ground ASAP to repair the trails. We’ll be out in force once the Forest Service gives us the green light. Please consider donating to our Trail Fund if you can, we’ve got lots of collective work ahead of us.

If you have any photos of trail or road damage from this past week, please forward on to us of the Forest Service.

Sorry for the bad news on a Friday the 13th and stay safe everyone……

Unrecognizable? That’s Montecito Hot Springs. Not a social media sensation at the moment.