The following is a press release issued by the Mendocino National Forest:
Mendocino National Forest officials are closing all National Forest System trails designated for off-highway vehicle (OHV) use as well as the Deer Valley campground. On the Grindstone District, the trail closure is in effect from Jan. 27 through Mar. 1, 2023, per Forest Order 08-23-01. On the Upper Lake Ranger District, the trail and campground closure is in effect from Jan. 27 through June 30, 2023, per Forest Order 08-23-02. This measure is taken to ensure the health and safety of the public, protect the trails and campgrounds, and prevent further resource damage.
“Right now the OHV trails are unsafe to use. The winter storms in December and January caused extensive damage to our roads and trails,” said Forest Supervisor Wade McMaster. “If an accident happened on one of the trails, we would not be able to get emergency vehicles into the area for a search and rescue due to landslides and downed trees.”
A series of strong storms occurred across California starting late last year (nine major atmospheric rivers occurred between December 26 and January 16, 2023), resulting in damage to Forest Service infrastructure. Wind and rainfall caused landslides on two forest roads, and forest staff could identify additional road damage as storm assessment continues.
On the Upper Lake Ranger District, rain gauges recorded over 27 inches of precipitation in less than four weeks. At the High Glade Lookout, the weather station recorded sustained winds of 50 mph and gusts of 89 mph. These high winds brought down large numbers of both dead and living trees across trails. In the Deer Valley Campground, uprooted trees have created hazardous stump holes and damaged infrastructure (i.e., picnic tables, grills and bathrooms).
Downed trees and stump holes present hazards to user safety and make travel impossible without venturing outside of the trail bed. One of the indirect effects of riding around obstacles across trails is increased damage to soil resources.
Fire-damaged trees are expected fall in the immediate future since saturated soils may no longer be able to support the weight of the trees. Future storms and snowmelt may cause additional damage to roads and trails.
“My first priority is employee and visitor safety, especially given the hazards we face in a postfire landscape,” said McMaster. “The district rangers and recreation program managers have been actively working to restore safe, sustainable access to campgrounds and trails. I also want to commend our committed volunteers who have stepped up to help with storm damage assessments.”
Forest orders and updates can be found at https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/mendocino/alerts-notices