Here is an email I received from Daniel Greenstadt, IMBA‚Äôs California State Representative - Southern Region
Each of you independently expressed recent concern about trail access. I've got some more information that pertains to the San Bernardino National Forest (San Jacinto Ranger District), trails access and the Southern California Forest Management Plan process more broadly. By association, this also pertains to the Herkey Creek area but those specifics are unclear for reasons you'll see.
In a nutshell, there are two things going on. The first is the So Cal Management Plan process, which has now come to a head with the publication of the final plans. Showing off those plans is what the Nov 1 and other Open House events are for. Semi-related to all of this is the route inventory process (often referred to as the OHV Route Inventory because USFS mistakenly included bicycles with the OHVs for the purpose of the route inventory) that USFS Districts are supposed to be undergoing. I say "supposed to" because there is definitely a lack of coordination and understanding withing USFS regarding how this process is supposed to be working. You can imagine how hard it is to grapple with for those of us on the "outside." Although IMBA and mountain bikers generally have good relations with USFS, including a Memorandum of Understanding favorable to the inclusion and effective management of bikes, that doesn't mean USFS is always as coordinated as we'd like.
The crux of the problem is that the new Management Plans restrict cycling to "system" trails and roads. That sounds fine until you try to figure out what the "system" trails and roads are. Well, there's a route inventory process that's supposed to answer that question. But while the Plans are now final (although still subject to appeal), the route inventory process has barely begun. Here is how the steps are laid out by USFS:
1) USFS to inventory and map all District trails and roads - official and unofficial - that have wheel tracks (motors and mountain bikes). Then USFS develops maps and seeks public input about what's correct or incorrect. USFS publish a complete list by Dec. 2005; Public comment by March 2006.
2) USFS passes (by June 2006) a temporary, 2-year closure order limiting motors and mountain bikes to only those inventoried routes while they continue to analyze them for proper designation. (Here is one point where IMBA has objected - we believe there should be NO closures of any routes we're riding, official or unofficial, yet.)
(At this point, mountain bikes magically drop out of the process and USFS deal with OHV's)
3) Then, USFS proposes designated routes for OHV's and suggest that other unofficial routes are closed, designated non-motorized, etc. (By Sept 2006 with public input by February 2007).
4) Designated routes are identified. ( December 2007)
5) Final Forest Order (September 2008).
Now you can begin to imagine some of the problem we're having with this. Rather than re-write many of the details, please see the attached text of a letter that IMBA submitted back in Sept 2004. It does a good job of describing what we saw as some serious problems with USFS' then emerging plan. Sadly, USFS has thus far been unresponsive to our concerns. In fact, they say they misplaced the extensive communications. And sure enough, it's now coming back to bite them in places like Herkey Creek. Actually, I can't say exactly what may or may not be happening to specific trails in the Herkey Creek area. Sadly, USFS may not know some of these answers either. However, in speaking with USFS this week, they are quickly trying to put together a public meeting on this bike topic (different focus than the Open Houses) and they are looking at Nov 9 in Idyllwild. You will probably see an announcement going out from them (and IMBA) soon. IMBA will be helping to advertise that meeting as well because we definitely want mountain bikers and our generally fair-minded trail-loving brothers and sisters on foot and horse to show up and express all the frustration, concern and dissatisfaction that this situation warrants. USFS created this mess and we need to encourage them to come up with a solution - hopefully along the lines that IMBA has proposed.
Link to letter that IMBA submitted back in Sept 2004
International Mountain Bicycling Association
California State Representative - Southern Region
San Diego County Trails Council
Dedicated to the acquisition and preservation of riding, hiking and mountain biking trails in San Diego County
San Diego Mountain Biking Association
Education Trail Maintenance Land Access
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