Monday, January 8, 2018

Thomas Fire Front Country Trail Closures Demystified

The Thomas Fire has effected every one from our local communities in one way or another.  From the devastation seen through entire neighborhoods to the loss of life, it is was an event that shall not be forgotten any time soon.  The smell of smoke when one ventures nears the burn zone and those fiery images will be engrained in all of our memories for a long time to come.  Our condolences go out to anyone effected by this fire. 

And then there was the mass destruction to the vegetation on hills and mountains between Santa Paula and Santa Barbara.  The Los Padres National Forest has never seen anything of this size or this amount of destruction before.  Trails and roads across the entire forest have been compromised and will continue to be unsafe especially with loose hillsides that will fell rock and debris after every rainstorm.  The recovery will take years as we have seen with the much less severe Jesusita Fire, but eventually things will return level of normalcy.  Then there is the high potential for flooding across areas where the watersheds were stripped of growth......

When will the trails re-open?

The good news is that all Front Country Trails West of Gibraltar Road have re-opened, however those to the east of Gibraltar Rd. including Franklin Trail have been closed off if not in their entirety, to a significant degree.  The Forest Service Closure Order and Map outlines these closures, which states that within the National Forest, in areas that were effected by the Thomas Fire are now closed.  Further clarified, certain trails have trail heads which begin outside the forest and then enter and are closed at the entry point.  Official trail closure signage has now been placed at all trail heads indicating "closed" or "closed ahead" with additional closure signage at the forest boundary line, and the FS has begun routine patrols of these areas.   Those trails effected by this closure order are Cold Spring, Hot Springs, Mcmenemy, San Ysidro, Buena Vista, Old Pueblo, Girard, Saddle Rock, Romero, and Franklin Trails.  Cold Spring(Main entrance) and Romero begin within the National Forest and are closed off in their entirety,  however some other trails the distance between the trail head and NF boundary can vary from a few feet to as much as 3/4 of a mile as in the case of Franklin Trail.  The county of Santa Barbara is aware of this and considering further closures to narrow the gap.  This photo album with maps of effected trails highlights trails along the front country and where they close/cross into National Forest Land.  

As to when the trails east of Gibraltar Road will re-open, no firm date was given by District Ranger Smith, only that it would be after the rainy season has ended and the trails have been evaluated for safety.

Is there a trail you were wondering has re-opened and didn't see it listed here, contact the local ranger station to find out as trail status in some areas this may change throughout the winter: (805) 967-3481

How can you help?  

First and foremost, stay off the trails that have been closed to public access and resist the urge to visit areas where water/debris flow is likely to be high during and after rain storms.   As for trail maintenance projects, none are permitted at this time by any local organizations on Forest Service lands within the closure and the only assistance the FS has asked of local groups is to help place closure signs and notices and help get the word out to trail users as to the trail status.  Some consulting on terrain across the front country has also been asked of local groups and trail maintenance projects will continue on OPEN trails throughout the winter as storms wreak havoc.  Contact one of many local trails organizations for any events planned on OPEN trails, not only on the Front Country but throughout the LPNF.  The FS is in the process of bringing in specialized trail crews to help divert water from trails thus preventing mass erosion on trails effected by the Thomas Fire.

P.S.  The FS let trail organizations know they are monitoring Facebook and aware of the trespassing/posting of photos on closed trails!

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