Recreation
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Recreation in Jackson Forest

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 winter, etc.

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 www.jacksonforum.org/blog.

Copyright Vince Taylor, 2008