|6/11/2013 1:10:00 PM|
Road closures to continue in fire area
|Forest impact from last year’s Pole Creek Fire varies greatly. Some spots were only lightly burned or skipped over. Other areas, like this section of Whychus Creek Canyon below Chush Falls, were very badly burned.photo by Craig Eisenbeis|
|The Pole Creek Fire left many precariously leaning dead trees like this one. As a result, safety concerns dictate that several forest road closures remain in effect.|
photo by Craig Eisenbeis
By Craig EisenbeisThe after-effects of the Pole Creek Fire continue to haunt Sisters Country and will continue to do so for some time. The Forest Service has opened many of the previously closed access roads into the burn area, but additional work will be required before all areas are open to the public. In the meantime, safety issues - principally falling tree hazards - and forest rehabilitation are continuing to be addressed.
The Forest Service recently granted The Nugget a special permit for access to some of the closed areas, in order to report to the public on post-fire conditions in areas that are not yet open to public access. That permit was granted with the understanding that the public be made aware of the fact that many of these areas remain closed to vehicle traffic.
The principal concern is one of public safety, said Sisters District Ranger Kristie Miller.
"We haven't had enough people to go in and fall the hazard trees," she said, "and they are falling right and left."
Miller said that the crews are busy, but they have many, many miles of roads that must be cleared of hazard trees before the public is allowed vehicle access to several of the region's heavily used areas. Some of the currently closed roads lead to popular trailheads for Millican Crater, Scott Pass, Chush Falls, and - of course - Pole Creek.
The current plan of attack is to work to clear the shortest closed roads first. According to Miller, that means that Millican Crater, Scott Pass, and Chush Falls will be highest on the priority list.
As one example, the 600 Road leading to Chush Falls has been temporarily blocked at the 1014 Road, but the southern half of that road has been permanently blocked and the trail rerouted from a new trailhead. It is hoped that the temporary closure on the northern half of that road will be lifted in the next few weeks. Until then, it will be necessary to walk the entire length of the 600 Road to reach the falls.
Miller has not ruled out the possibility of a future reopening of the southern end of the Chush Falls access road but, she said, "certainly not this year." She stated that she would like to see it reopened someday, but it is simply not possible to determine that now. So, for the foreseeable future, Chush Falls will remain a longer hike than it has been in years past, even if the temporary road closure is lifted.
It is expected that the Pole Creek Road will be one of the last areas to reopen. Between the 15 Road and the 1018 Road, more than 10 miles of access are presently closed to the public. As a result, that access will have to wait until the more numerous shorter roads have been cleared. Miller was unable to predict whether the opening would be weeks or months away.
Generally, the trails served by the closed roads are open to low-impact foot traffic, but trail users must walk the additional miles to reach the trailheads for now. Further, wilderness use in the burned-over areas is limited to a 100-foot corridor, 50 feet on each side of the affected trails.
Up-to-date forest restrictions and closure information can be obtained by contacting the Sisters Ranger District at 541-549-7700. Detailed closure information is also available at http://1.usa.gov/190o6yg.
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