RECREATION – this is the single most important aspect of
Jackson Demonstration State Forest to many in our community. There are
avid campers, bicyclists, equestrians, hikers, shooters, and hunters who
use Jackson Forest regularly.
But, the number of recreation users today is small compared
to the potential. For example, I feel confident that most people living on
the coast don’t even know that there are 16 beautiful, widely separated
public camp sites, some along the South Fork of the Noyo River, near
historic Camp One, only about 8 miles from Fort Bragg. You can stay in
these camps for up to two weeks, at no charge! While camped there, you
have access to lightly traveled roads that are perfect for you or your
children to bicycle, and there are numerous hiking routes. When the coast
is fogged in, the summer daytime temperatures at these camps usually range
from 75 to 80 degrees.
There are also numerous cross-country trails that are used
by the local off-road cycling community. Few visitors are aware of these,
and even fewer city enthusiasts know about them.
Why is there such limited recreation in our 50,000-acre
public redwood forest? What can be done change this? These are questions
being addressed the Recreation Subcommittee of the Jackson Advisory Group
(JAG), an independent advisory body established as part of the new
management plan for Jackson Forest approved in January of this year.
The answer to the first question is pretty clear. In the
past, recreation was a low priority for the managers of Jackson Forest,
who were charged with managing the forest as a timber operation. Most
money from logging went to Sacramento.
Few resources were made available to handle all of the
problems associated with public use of the forest – illegal off-road
vehicle use and dumping, alcohol, drugs, noise and trash at campsites and
party sites, vehicles causing environmentally damaging erosion during the
Without resources to do the job right, management
discouraged forest use by “hiding” recreation sites, omitting signs
advertising their existence and providing no maps of hiking or biking
trails. They established a system of locked steel gates, failed to
maintain recreation trails, and appalling to many local residents, dug
ditches and placed rip rap across community trails into the state forest.
The answer to second question, “What can be done to change
this?”, is going to be determined largely by the local community. Under
the new management plan, recreation is an important component of the
forest’s mission, and the independent advisory group, the JAG, has a
mandate to assist in the development of a recreation users group, a user
survey, and a long-term recreation plan.
At its last meeting, the JAG gave its Recreation Committee,
consisting of Peter Braudrick and I, the authority to assist in the
formation of the recreation group, act as a liaison between the group and
Cal Fire and the JAG, and to draw upon the group for guidance in the
development of a recreation plan.
If you want to see more and better recreation opportunities
in Jackson Forest, now is the time to get involved. If you live near the
forest and would like to see good access, maintained recreation trails,
and no dumping, get involved.
If you’ve lived here a long time, you justifiably may be
skeptical, but this time really is different. Funds to support recreation
will be available because new legislation ensures that a major portion of
logging revenues will come back to Jackson Forest. Further, the JAG has
powerful support; so its recommendations will not be ignored
The next meeting of the Recreation Committee will be on
Saturday, July 26 from 10:00 a.m. to noon at JDSF Headquarters, 802 North
Main Street. The first meeting was a great success, with 30 people
attending. Five different recreation interests were represented: Hiking,
Off Road Vehicles (OHV), Bicycling, Equestrian, and Shooting. It was
wonderful to see the respect, empathy, and mutual support expressed by
almost everyone in the room. Everyone was excited by the obvious
opportunity to see more and better recreation in Jackson Forest. Each
interest group prepared a report giving its major interests, concerns, and
goals. At the next meeting, we will focus in on near-term priorities,
assign responsibilities, and set milestones.
More information on the recreation meeting and the
sub-group reports, as well as on recreating in the forest, is at
www.jacksonforest.org. To comment on the reports and this column go to
Copyright Vince Taylor, 2008