A formal 30-day public comment period is scheduled to start on December 29th and will be followed by an open house at the Ashland Public Library, 410 Siskiyou Boulevard, on Thursday, January 8, 2015, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Forest Service personnel will be on hand to provide information and answer questions to help meeting attendees prepare their comments.
Following the closure of the comment period, a draft Decision Notice and response to comments will be released, which is subject to a 45-day objection period prior to work beginning on the project.
When finalized, the Ashland Trails project will identify a sustainable non-motorized trail system on National Forest-administered lands located in the vicinity of Ashland. The Ashland Woodland and Trails Association (AWTA), a local non-profit coalition of non-motorized recreationists, stepped up to the plate in 2010 to spearhead the development of a comprehensive trail plan in cooperation with the Siskiyou Mountains Ranger District of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.
“The recreation use that occurs in the forest near Ashland has greatly increased in the last 10 years. A number of trails were being created by enthusiastic trail users that were not ecologically sustainable, and some trails were impacting wildlife. We recognized that it was very important to work closely with the community in identifying a sustainable trail system that considered all types of trail use. This project would not have been possible without the tremendous amount of support we received from the Ashland Woodlands and Trails Association (AWTA),” said Siskiyou Mountains District Ranger Donna Mickley.
The AWTA contributed significant support for the planning effort, including hiring a consultant to help draft the Environmental Assessment, creating an inventory of existing trails, and identifying possibilities for new trail construction as well as trail decommissioning. The current estimated recreation use of National Forest trails by hikers, trail runners, mountain bikers, dog walkers, bird watchers, horseback riders and other recreationists is approximately 50,000 visits per year.
The AWTA hosted two public meetings in February 2011, with over 100 attendees to gain public input on proposed changes to the Ashland Trails Project. The comments of various user groups were integrated into a Trail Management Plan developed by the AWTA. The plan was provided to the Forest Service to determine which trails would be incorporated into an Environmental Assessment prior to proposing a new sustainable trails system.
After significant field work and assessment by Forest Service resource specialists, three trail system alternatives (no action, a proposed alternative and a preferred alternative) were created, and the EA is now ready for public review and comment.
Rob Cain, President of the AWTA, adds “A considerable amount of thought and deliberation has gone into this plan. We believe that what will emerge will help create a better, more sustainable trail system that will enhance the user experience for decades to come.”
The ultimate goal of the project is to create a sustainable trail system that meets the needs of a wide variety of users while protecting the natural resources that enhance the quality of life in the area. When the project is finalized, a key component of moving forward will be the development of a volunteer program in cooperation with the AWTA that will guide volunteer efforts to keep the trail system maintained into the future. For additional information, contact Recreation Staff Officer Brian Long at 541.899-3815 or firstname.lastname@example.org .