Bumpy Roads Ahead for Gifford Pinchot National Forest
After public meetings this year, the Forest Service released its draft Travel Analysis Process for Gifford Pinchot National Forest, but the plan didnt address many hiker concerns.
After several public meetings earlier this year, the Forest Service recently released its draft Travel Analysis Process (TAP) for Gifford Pinchot National Forest, but the plan did not address many hiker concerns.
As the voice for hikers in Washington state, WTA's interest isn't limited to developing and maintaining trails, but also in the road system that provides access to those trails they lead to. Without a well-maintained road system, hikers and other trail users could lose access to the places they love in this scenic recreation corridor between Mount Rainier and the Columbia River Gorge.
Proposal could limit hiker access
A key recommendation in the plan would keep many roads accessing trails at Maintenance Level 2 - High Clearance Vehicles. This means that those roads will be maintained, but only to the level to make them appropriate for high clearance vehicles likshe SUVs and are not suitable for passenger cars.
Maintenance Level 2 roads have the following attributes:
- Are maintained for use by high-clearance vehicles and not suitable for passenger cars.
- Do not consider passenger car traffic, user comfort, and user convenience.
During the public comment period in 2014, WTA communicated concern over declining roads access to popular trailheads including the gravel road (FR 4109) to the Silver Star Trail where travelers needed a high clearance vehicle to reach the parking area.
Mitigating safety risks, environmental integrity, and access demand
Hikers and other recreation users have consistently asked for imrpoved access to the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The TAP does not reflect this growing demand as Washington's population expands and more people seek solace outdoors.
Reduced access to roads leading to trails also means reduced visits to the trails. If few hikers are using a trail, it will not be a priority for maintenance and, over time, trails will be lost. This will put increased pressure on a limited number of roads and trails.
Increased use on fewer roads and trails could create new maintenance costs and endanger water quality due to increased erosion.
Next steps for forest roads
The proposal does not represent the final plan. WTA and other user groups like the Gifford Pinchot Task Force have asked the Forest Service to consider recreation concerns in the final plan. The final plan is expected to be released later this year.