Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Passion for Trails and Public Service Highlight Sierra Interagency OHV Workshop

Campground OHV Access Trail to Adventure on the
Stanislaus National Forest

Cooler weather and spectacular scenery welcomed about 35 attendees to the 2016 Ranger Ride and OHV Workshop held on October 4-6, 2016 at the Hull Creek Campground. This annual interagency trail management event was coordinated by Don Amador of Quiet Warrior Racing (QWR) and the BlueRibbon Coalition/Sharetrails.org (BRC). The event was hosted by the Mi-Wok Ranger District on the Stanislaus National Forest. 

The group included OHV managers, trail specialists, line-officers, instructors, recreation staff, law enforcement officers, public affairs, field crew members, and private sector partners from the Eldorado National Forest, Sequoia National Forest, Stanislaus National Forest, Tahoe National Forest,  BLM Eagle Lake Field Office, BLM Redding Field Office, BLM Ukiah Field Office, BLM CA State Office, CA State Parks OHMVR Division (OHMVRD), BlueRibbon Coalition/Sharetrails.org, Quiet Warrior Racing, Stewards of the Stanislaus National Forest, and Trails Unlimited LLC.

Topics and modules included trail rides, demonstrations, dirt-bike certification and recertification courses, and exchanging OHV management strategies/challenges/successes.

Mi-Wok District Ranger, Fred Wong, Welcomes Group

After the welcome by Mi-Wok District Ranger, Fred Wong, and other Forest staff, an overview of OHV recreation on BLM land in CA was given by the BLM State Office Trail lead, Jane Arteaga.

Brian Robertson, OHMVR Division Chief, also gave the group an update on the CA State Park Transformation Process and how it recognizes the important relationship that exists between the CA OHV Program and its federal partners.

OHMVRD Chief, Brian Robertson, Talks about State OHV Grant Program
that Funds Restoration and Trail Projects on Federal Lands

Attendees then broke up into several groups to either take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s DirtBike School or participate in a walking tour to review the 15 year evolution of various restoration, signing, and armoring projects implemented to protect natural resources and preserve continued OHV access to the Hull Creek Campground.  

Paul Hart, a certified DirtBike School coach and Trails Manager for the Yuba River Ranger District on the Tahoe National Forest, taught this one-day hands-on training session, over the course of two days, to agency students from the Forest Service, BLM, and OHMVRD.  Students learned basic riding skills, trail ethics, and environmental responsibility.  

FS Trail Staff Enjoys Dirt Bike Tour of Designated 
Road and Trail System

After graduation from the course, students took part in easy and moderate trail rides lead by agency staff and local volunteer partners. This allowed the students to improve and practice the skills taught during the DirtBike School.   QWR strongly believes that post-class mentored trail rides where new riders get extra seat time to further hone their skills is a vital aspect of the training program.

Hull Creek Campground Restoration Project

The upgrades to Hull Creek Campground are a good illustration of how a pro-active “all-hands” holistic approach to managing OHV facilities can be successful in protecting important natural/cultural resources  while providing continued public access to a high quality camping and riding experience.

Campground Tour Includes Stop at Recent Tread Block
Armor Project

The many Hull Creek Campground improvement project partners include; OHMVR OHV Ground Operations Grant funding, American Conservation Experience Crews (ACE), CA Conservation Corps (CCC), Merced Dirt Riders, and Summer of Success High School Crew funded by Tuolumne County RAC and administered by Mother Lode Job Training.

OHMVRD LE, Kim Baker, Takes Turn on Kubota Trail Tractor

The workshop wants to thank Scott Kuhlwein from Garton Tractor for providing the event with a demo Kubota subcompact tractor/backhoe so event participants could practice on this popular piece of trail equipment.  These sub-compact tractors are used on the Stanislaus National Forest and other units to perform various trail maintenance and construction projects.

FS Trail Staff Illustrate Trail Tread Block Installation

Later in the day, folks worked on a tread block project to armor a trail grade against erosion from dirt-bikes and ATVs.

BLM's, Jane Arteaga, and Don Amador at
 Tread Block Demo

Another group went on a trail ride to review the ongoing efforts by the local trail specialists to provide a high quality and sustainable trail program for riders that visit this destination OHV area in the Central Sierra.

Trail Rides/Tours of Designated Routes

Day two started off with a presentation of the Forest’s travel management signing strategy.  The unit’s trail staff believes that an effective signing program is one of the most important methods of conveying (to the public) its commitment to managing sustainable OHV recreation.

Travel Management Signs at Hull Creek OHV Area

QWR believes that signs are an important form of communication in showing the public where they can ride on designated roads, trails, and areas.  Effective signing programs may also consist of a complex system of alternative “signs” that can include border fencing, maps, public education, the appropriate level/type of law enforcement, trail delineators, and vehicle parking restrictors.

Low Profile "Signs" to Stay on Designated Trails

QWR believes the quality of an agency’s signing program is directly proportional to the rate of user enjoyment, public compliance with regulations, and success of the unit’s mission, vision, and values.

OHV Info in Hull Creek Campground

QWR commends the Stanislaus National Forest for its implementation of a holistic signing program that uses the minimum level of “signs” needed to meet its management goals and objectives.   The unit uses adaptive management to adjust its signing prescriptions as appropriate.

Example of Well Signed OHV Trail in Hull Creek Area 

The greater Hull Creek OHV Area is home to a number of waterways including Hull Creek, Trout Creek, and the Clavey River.

Restoration Project in Trout Creek Watershed

The Forest took a number of participants on a tour of its rather impressive and substantive restoration efforts in the Trout Creek watershed.  Those numerous water quality and resource/cultural protection projects included installation of rock barriers, restoration signs, and route delineators.

Restoration Project in Clavey River Watershed

Joe Chavez, Tahoe National Forest Trail Lead, gave an update and field demonstration of the R5 Wet Weather Soil Studies.   Chavez demonstrated the procedure and stated they might do a pilot project soon at one of their riding areas on the Tahoe National Forest.

Tahoe National Forest Trail Lead, Joe Chavez, Takes
Soil Moisture Reading

According to a previous QWR article by Roger Poff (lead scientist on the project), the Forest Service has been conducting field studies to develop an evidence-based method for opening trails based on direct measurements of trail condition.

The field studies involved measuring soil strength and soil moisture, and correlating those measurements with observed levels of trail damage. The information is used to predict the risk of trail damage at different levels of soil strength and soil moisture. This prediction of risk can then be used to develop threshold values to determine when to open or close trails.

Chavez demonstrated the procedure and stated they might do a pilot project soon at one of their riding areas on the Tahoe National Forest.

QWR believes it will be an important tool in the trail manager’s toolbox for managing trails under wet conditions.

A good “campfire” discussion broke out on the topic of managing trail/route opportunities for SxS recreationists.  With the demand for backcountry SxS touring opportunities growing each year, the group felt it is important for units - that have the capacity to provide for SxS recreation - to look for ways to adjust their travel management strategies to accommodate said use.

Campground Access Route for Dirt-Bikes, ATVs, and SxSs

Often that can include making sure that SxSs have legal access from campgrounds and staging areas to backcounty touring or destination type experiences.  Units should also consider reviewing their existing trail/road networks to identify “encouraged” route opportunities for ½ or full day excursions.

Historic Bourland Train Trestle - A Potential OHV/SxS Destination Site

Another discussion related to travel management on Forest Service lands included the concept of the agency reviewing how its level 3 (usually not open for non-street legal OHVs) road system is integrated into it overall OHV travel program. 

Level 3 roads can often provide important connectivity between motorized trails/level 2 roads for non-street legal OHVs.  Where connectivity is critical for a high quality OHV recreation experience, agency units should consider mixed-use designations for level 3 roads or administratively reclassify the level 3 road to a level 2 which then can be used by non-street legal OHVs.

Example of Mixed Use Sign on the Mendocino National Forest
At the conclusion of the event, it seemed the participants appreciated the education modules, dirt-bike training/certification, opportunities for networking and relationship building, and the effort made to include a lot of “seat time” for trail riding.

Mi-Wok District Recreation Officer, Chuck James, Gets Ready to Lead Trail Ride 

Finally, QWR appreciated that RZ Mask sent some demo dust filtration masks to the event.  Fitting under the rider’s helmet, those masks really helped filter dusk on several of the longer trail rides and added a much appreciated level of comfort for the participants.

Don Amador with RZ Mask

A big note of gratitude goes out to our agency and volunteer partners who helped make this event a fun and informative learning experience.  Once again, this annual workshop proves there is no substitute for “getting out in the field or on the trail.”

Trail Delineator with Wire Strand Deterrent to Discourage
Cutting with Chainsaw

The main takeaway from the event for QWR was the participant’s passion for trails and public service.  It was evidenced by the smiles on their faces and the management prescriptions they have implemented over the last decade to preserve and protect natural/cultural resources while providing continued access to high quality OHV trail-based recreation.

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