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andrew e
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PostFri Apr 04, 2008 8:52 am 
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One of the unfortunate things to note in the Forest Service's Access and Travel Management plan for the Suiattle River Road corridor is that they plan to only maintain FR 2860, the road to the Green Mountain trailhead, to high clearance vehicle standards. Comments to the Darrington Ranger District need to be received by April 15. More details in WTA's Signpost blog:

http://www.wta.org/trail-news/signpost/suiattle-white-chuck-atm

In October 2003, when rain started pouring on glaciers, rivers rose preciptously in the Darrington Ranger District.  The Suiattle River Road washed out that year.  In 2006, rising floodwaters created even more damage closer to the beginning of the road.  These washouts turned the Green Mountain Trail, previously an 8-mile round trip hike, into a 48-mile backpack.

Now the Darrington Ranger District has proposed a repair and reconstruction plan for the Suiattle River Road, which I consider a sister road to the White Chuck.  Both of these roads access the western Glacier Peak Wilderness, and both are frequented by day-hikers, climbers and backpackers.

The Suiattle saw significant damage at Mileposts 12.6, 13 and 20.8.  The Darrington District proposed reopening the road to passenger vehicles to the Buck Creek Campground, and then maintaining it for high clearance vehicles from there to the Wilderness boundary.  Road 2680, which leads to the Green Mountain trailhead, will be maintained for high clearance vehicles.  A great deal of the Tenas Creek Road, which leads to Pear and Boulder Lakes, is proposed for decommissioning.

We have two majors questions:

* Green Mountain is one of Washington's premiere dayhikes.  It should be available for people who don't own SUVs.  Why is the District not proposing to maintain this road for passenger vehicles?

* If the District is, indeed, interested in decommissioning the Tenas Creek Road, is it recommending that the road be turned into a trail?  Or will access to Boulder and Pear Lakes be lost?

The deadline for comments on the Suiattle Roads Access and Travel Management Proposed Action is April 15.  You can submit written comments to:  Phyllis Reed, Darrington Ranger District, 1405 Emmens St, Darrington, WA  98241.  You can also email comments to plreed@fs.fed.us.
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Malachai Constant
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PostFri Apr 04, 2008 8:56 am 
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How do you "maintain" a road for high clearance vehicles only? Seems to me they are not maintaing it they just are not closing or decommissioning it.

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Eric
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PostFri Apr 04, 2008 10:09 am 
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That's lame. Green Mtn is one of the most pleasant nicest easy dayhikes around. The spur up to the TH is not that long and as of 2004 at least when I was up there last the road was in pretty reasonable shape.
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Quark
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PostFri Apr 04, 2008 8:27 pm 
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It's about 6 miles to the Green Mtn TH from the Suiattle Rd.  That's a fair distance, and the road has washed out a few times in the past.  But yeah, it's in pretty fair shape.

MBSNF link to scoping letter, attachment and map.

The scoping letter states that there are no funds to adequately maintain these roads any longer, so are becoming hazards to the natural surroundings.

But hell yeah, I'd like to see folks be able to use Green Mtn road.  There aren't too many popular hikes in that area in the first place.  Take away Green Mountain and you can about kiss advocacy goodbye.  No one will ever make the drive from the cities to hike Sulpher Creek; Hucklberry is 14 miles RT - not exactly a family dayhike.  Sulpher Mtn - again - not a typical family hike, never was very popular.  I can count the number of people on one hand, that I ever saw on the Hucklberry trail in the several weekends I worked on it.  Milk Creek is mildly popular, and the Suiattle trail is built to handle the traffic it receives.

I would like Green Mtn.  road maintained for passenger vehicles.  If today it's a level 2 road, then next it will be put into "storage," and finally decommissioned.

What's happening is that we're selling out.  Packing up and going home because there's currently no funding.  If a decade from now the FS does have funding, these places will be long forgotten and no one will respond to the public comment session, or the roads so far gone that to reopen them would be a huge cost.

Then what's next - the FS needs money, so Starbucks and Trend West comes along and cracks a deal for a condo development.  And who will be left to fight against it - no one.  Why?  Because there won't be anyone alive who had ever hiked Green Mountain.

There's nothing in the scoping letter about Boundary Bridge.  I think that's out of their hands, but since they want to keep the road on the south side open to Circle Pk for the tribes, that bites it for the bridge.  I think the tribes was about the only hope we had for the bridge.

I don't think the Suiattle drainage is an area that has been "loved to death" as the Alpine Lakes areas.  Green Mtn trail, sorta, but so far it's been able to handle it alright (it needs and outhouse at the trailhead).

I need to print the letter, attachment and map and re-read it, and check definitions of some text before officially popping off.  This is knee-jerk reaction here.

Sorry if I'm rambling incoherently.  Benadryl and NyQuil overdose is kicking in....

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RodF
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PostFri Apr 04, 2008 11:13 pm 
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For those seeking further information, the Suiattle Access and Travel Management Plan scoping letter and map are posted here:
http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/mbs/projects/suiattle-atm/index.shtml

andrew e wrote:
Green Mountain is one of Washington's premiere dayhikes.  It should be available for people who don't own SUVs.  Why is the District not proposing to maintain this road for passenger vehicles?

The scoping letter answers this: "Based on average costs per mile, by reducing open road mileage and reducing the road maintenance objective level to Level 2 on all roads except the main Suiattle Road (Road 26), the predicted annual cost to maintain the roads in the proposed action to standard is approximately $73,000. This is a 42% reduction in cost to maintain the 86 miles of open roads which were open in 2003 to standard ($125,000). These funds have not been available, and $73,000 is also not available annually. Therefore, the road system will continue to be maintained in a substandard condition, but will meet all requirements for public safety, if not for public comfort."

Will complaints, without funding, help?  If they still can't even afford to maintain 2680 at level 2 (high clearance vehicles), what is the point of asking them to reclassify it on paper as level 3 (passenger vehicles)?

andrew e wrote:
If the District is, indeed, interested in decommissioning the Tenas Creek Road, is it recommending that the road be turned into a trail?  Or will access to Boulder and Pear Lakes be lost?

The Forest Service's Scoping Letter is indeed ambiguous:
"0 Miles of roads to trails
At this time there are no roads proposed for conversion to trails. A walkable tread would be retained on Road 2660 in the Tenas Creek drainage beyond the damaged Tenas Creek Bridge site."

Sounds like the proposed action is "do nothing".  There might be reasons (no funding for trail conversion, hope to reopen it in future, at least provides limited access for maintenance)?

Edit: correction, the enclosure says they do plan to convert 2.9 miles of Tenas Creek road 2661 above the bridge to "trail-like storage", and end the road at a parking area 1.1 miles below the bridge.  This adds 4.0 miles and 1180' elevation gain to the hike.
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RodF
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PostSat Apr 05, 2008 12:54 am 
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Malachai Constant wrote:
How do you "maintain" a road for high clearance vehicles only? Seems to me they are not maintaining it they just are not closing or decommissioning it.

Short answer: Don't grade it, don't gravel it, ignore potholes, ignore brush, washouts and fallen rocks on the shoulders, don't replace missing signs.  Spend less than half as much.

Longer answer: The MBSNF Roads Analysis says they have $1 million/year for road maintenance, would need $3.7 million to maintain all their 2662 miles of roads properly.  "Less than 25 percent of the Forest roads are fully maintained to planned safety and environmental standards, with available funding."

The maintenance levels for single-lane gravel roads are:

Level 3 (all vehicles, user comfort is a consideration): "Maintain surfacing and drainage, including shoulders; maintain all structures for planned traffic; install and maintain route markers, warning, regulatory and guide signs and other traffic devices."

Level 2 (high clearance, user comfort not a consideration): "Log out and brush as necessary to keep open, keep drainage facilities functional, maintain all structures for planned traffic."
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treeswarper
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PostSat Apr 05, 2008 4:54 am 
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RodF wrote:
[
The maintenance levels for single-lane gravel roads are:

Level 2 (high clearance, user comfort not a consideration): "Log out and brush as necessary to keep open, keep drainage facilities functional, maintain all structures for planned traffic."

This doesn't necessarily mean that a car can't make it up the road ok.  It just won't be bladed much,  and speeds will have to be lower.  Once again, driver skill is a factor.

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wamtngal
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PostSat Apr 05, 2008 7:25 am 
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Quark wrote:


What's happening is that we're selling out.  Packing up and going home because there's currently no funding.

The Bush Administration has proposed a cut of 15% (or $379m less than FY2008) to the Forest Service for FY2009. This equates to $4.1 billion, most of which goes to wildfire prevention and fighting. The Forest Service has essentially turned into the Fire Service.

To help solve this, a bill was recently proposed called the FLAME Act (Congressman Dicks is a co-sponsor). This act would create an emergency disaster fund for wildfires. If a fire got up to a certain level that would qualify it as an emergency, much like a hurricane, flood or earthquake would be, funds would be taken from this program and used to fight the fire. This would allow the Forest Service's funding to return to what it was used for in the past, including restoration and maintenance. Hopefully something like the FLAME Act is passed in the near future.

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Opinions expressed here are my own.
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Quark
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PostSat Apr 05, 2008 11:33 am 
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Thank you wamtngal. up.gif

RodF, I agree it's difficult to ask an entity to squeeze out the funds for roads/access when they've been bled dry, but if we can't just roll over and take it like whipped dogs.  Collection of responses go to the Fed, and perhaps something will come of it.

If no responses are made, then it will be assumed that it's alright that we lose these areas.

Sure, we might lose anyway,  but not without a fight.

With the loss of the White Chuck and eventually the loss of more trail access on the Suiattle (for all intents and purposes Green Mtn if this plan is adopted and Circle Peak [likely a loss]), Darrington District may as well finish off the compound and sell the ranger station.  No need for it.

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RodF
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PostSat Apr 05, 2008 2:15 pm 
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Quark, I'm in complete agreement with your goals.  I just don't see how Andrew's call for letters of complaint to MBSNF is an effective response.  wamtngal puts clear aim on the source of the problem: Congress.

Instead, I'd suggest concentrating on the upcoming Environmental Assessment.  The previous Suiattle EA was very impressive, as it had to be to counter to the issues raised by opponents who wanted the entire road decommissioned and converted to trail.  (pp. 21-22 describes their proposal and Chapter 4 lists their issues, and the FS responses, and makes entertaining reading!)  And these same groups wanted the same for the Mountain Loop Highway, and the Dosewallips Road.  One leading opponent explains why:

Quote:
But speaking purely as a backpacker, dayhiker, scrambler, and all-around lover of untamed wildlands, I can tell you that I experience nothing but sheer delight when forest roads wash out. And the harder time the Forest Service has rebuilding them, the better. Why this sentiment? Because closed roads makes our too-small wilderness areas bigger. Because wild country starts where the vehicles stop. Because the beauty of a place like the mid-Dosewallips or Sauk River can't be adequately experienced from a moving car.

Certain hikers of a more utilitarian bent dislike the notion of a favored hike becoming more difficult to reach. But wild country isn't there simply for our casual entertainment.

These sentiments can be more effective in closing roads than than floods and lack of funding combined.  Their strategy is the same in each case: (1) claim the action violates the Aquatic Conservation Strategy of the Northwest Forest Plan and the Endangered Species Act (claims which  prove, on examination, to be highly dubious if not entirely imaginary), (2) threaten litigation, and (3) hope that regional FS administrator will cave and order a full Environmental Impact Statement.  This adds a 2 year delay and costs the FS over a quarter million dollars.  Then, go to step (1).
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Quark
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PostSat Apr 05, 2008 2:22 pm 
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RodF, andrew's call isn't to just complain and send letters -

The FS has opened an official public comment period.  We have til April 15th to respond.

We both posted links to the MBSNF website so I won't post it again for anyone who wishes to repsond, please  go to our above posts and open the link.

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Snowbrushy
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PostSat Apr 05, 2008 3:54 pm 
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Quote:
But speaking purely as a backpacker, dayhiker, scrambler, and all-around lover of untamed wildlands, I can tell you that I experience nothing but sheer delight when forest roads wash out. And the harder time the Forest Service has rebuilding them, the better. Why this sentiment? Because closed roads makes our too-small wilderness areas bigger. Because wild country starts where the vehicles stop. Because the beauty of a place like the mid-Dosewallips or Sauk River can't be adequately experienced from a moving car.

Certain hikers of a more utilitarian bent dislike the notion of a favored hike becoming more difficult to reach. But wild country isn't there simply for our casual entertainment.

IMO there is some merit to letting things go back to how they were before the logging roads, etc., and it has to do with the notion of 'Frontier'.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frontier_Thesis  One reason for our parks and wild lands has a historical, and romantic context which is unique to America - called, The Frontier.

Our Frontier areas (here) are considered by some to be postage stamp sized parks compared to BC, Yukon, and Alaska; the "Last Frontier".  But by strict definition, a so-called frontier area is somewhere where less than two people live in a square mile. So, we do have a frontier East of Darrington, Wa..

With a rapidly growing population it only makes sense to allow it to be more difficult to reach some areas because of the history and romance. Backpackers like myself will still find time to visit Green Mountain and enjoy the frontier experience.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frontier
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Quark
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PostSat Apr 05, 2008 5:35 pm 
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RodF wrote:
And these same groups wanted the same for the Mountain Loop Highway, and the Dosewallips Road.  One leading opponent explains why:

Quote:
But speaking purely as a backpacker, dayhiker, scrambler, and all-around lover of untamed wildlands, I can tell you that I experience nothing but sheer delight when forest roads wash out. And the harder time the Forest Service has rebuilding them, the better. Why this sentiment? Because closed roads makes our too-small wilderness areas bigger. Because wild country starts where the vehicles stop. Because the beauty of a place like the mid-Dosewallips or Sauk River can't be adequately experienced from a moving car.


such an original sentiment.  rolleyes.gif So....this person does not mention high meadows.  Guess with all that road walking on river roads, he has never had the time to go up and see one.  hmmm.gif   It's fine to experience the Dose and Sauk - but when roads close, there's no choice for the average voter/hiker to visit higher places.

We lost the White Chuck, snowbrushy - take your backpacking prowess there to experience the romantic frontier.  There's plenty over there.

I'd like to keep the Suiattle area more accessible so that future voters can see it, love it, and when of age, will vote the correct people in Congress - like RodF says, it's all about Congress.

I'll be dead in about 30 years, so I won't care at all then. But when I'm old (before I die), I'll want to do more than park on a gravel road and crane my wrinkled old neck to try and get a glimpse of a far off summit I used to love.  Hell, you can't even see the meadows of Green Mtn from any road.

If you give an inch now, it'll be easier to take more - the road will be maintained as Level 2 - but what about 5 years from now - it'll be so far gone and such a headache that it'll go the way of the Mid Fk Snoqualmie road.  Closed for good.

At any rate and whatever your choice, the public comment period is now.

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Tom
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PostSat Apr 05, 2008 6:00 pm 
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andrew e wrote:
* If the District is, indeed, interested in decommissioning the Tenas Creek Road, is it recommending that the road be turned into a trail?  Or will access to Boulder and Pear Lakes be lost?

Sorry, must editorialize.  Who gives a flyin' leap whether the road is turned into a trail?  The issue is the road would be decommissioned! rant.gif  And more than just access to Boulder and Pear would be impacted. down.gif

Edit:  just sent my letter asking them to strongly reconsider decommission of the Tenas Creek road.  Please do the same if you care about access to these jewels:

Trail to Boulder Lake
Trail to Boulder Lake
Hurricane Peak from Boulder Lake
Hurricane Peak from Boulder Lake
Boulder  and Pear Lake from Boulder Peak (photo credit Steve Fox)
Boulder  and Pear Lake from Boulder Peak (photo credit Steve Fox)
Pear Lake and Boulder Peak from Hurricane Peak
Pear Lake and Boulder Peak from Hurricane Peak
Glacier Peak from Hurricane Peak
Glacier Peak from Hurricane Peak
Kawkawalk and Toketie Lake
Kawkawalk and Toketie Lake
Cross Country Roaming at its Finest
Cross Country Roaming at its Finest
Chaval and Snowking En Route to Crater Lake
Chaval and Snowking En Route to Crater Lake
Baker from Ridge En Route to Crater Lake
Baker from Ridge En Route to Crater Lake
Crater Lake
Crater Lake
Buckindy Rising In Distance Above Crater Lake
Buckindy Rising In Distance Above Crater Lake
Chaval Lake
Chaval Lake
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touron
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PostSat Apr 05, 2008 6:28 pm 
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Nice pictures!! up.gif  up.gif  up.gif   I wonder if it wouldn't hurt for nwhikers to become a some kind of official non-profit group so our opinion on things like this might carry more weight?

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