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.
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