Tour of Forest Service Roads - the Good & Bad

Saturday, October 18, 2014 - 9:00am to 1:00pm

Forest roads – we use them to access our favorite trails, campgrounds, and mushrooming spots but we may not consider their environmental impacts and what it takes to have roads in our National Forest. Join Bark for a tour of roads in the Zigzag / Upper Sandy River area to discuss the good and bad aspects of the large, aging road system in Mt. Hood National Forest. In the coming months there’ll be important opportunities for you to help the Forest Service make decisions about how to reduce its road system to a size that provides safe, reliable public access and is environmentally and fiscally sustainable.

The agency will launch the public involvement phase of its Travel Analysis Process (TAP) at open house meetings in October. Now is the time to discuss which roads are needed in Mt. Hood National Forest and which should go away. Our tour will give you useful insights into the TAP process so that you can get involved.

Tour of Forest Service roads:

Saturday, Oct. 18 -    Zigzag / Upper Sandy River area         9 am - 1 pm

     Meet at the Zigzag Ranger Station, 70220 E. Highway 26, Zigzag

Tour includes stops at sites to look at culvert washouts, a trailhead, campground, and a decommissioned road.

Please wear boots or sturdy shoes - we'll do some walking. Bring water, a snack, and dress for the weather.

At Zigzag you’ll see at a large culvert that required an expensive repair after it washed out and sent many cubic yards of sediment down to the Clear Fork of the Sandy River that is prime habitat for Spring Chinook and coho salmon and winter steelhead. We’ll look at a road that was restored to improve water quality and one that Bark proposes to convert into a trail for mountain bikes.

With more 3000 miles of roads, thousands of culverts, and hundreds of bridges the Forest Service road system in Mt. Hood National Forest represents a huge public investment, liability, and an opportunity. Many of the roads were built in the heyday of logging and, like ‘empty nesters’ in a large house, the Forest Service is faced with the question, “Do we still need and can we afford all of these roads?”

We want safe, reliable access for recreation but the agency is finding it harder to maintain an over large road system as budgets continue to decline. The Mt. Hood National Forest now faces a $51.8 million road maintenance backlog! Since 2008 the budget for road maintenance has decreased by 33%. In 2010 the Forest Service estimated it needed $ 3.0 million to maintain roads in the Mt. Hood area but their annual budget was only $ 1.0 million. The maintenance backlog increases every year. 

Each stream crossing needs a culvert and each one requires maintenance to prevent erosion and impacts to water quality. Miles and miles of roads are aging, falling into disrepair, and in many cases are no longer needed for access. Former Forest Supervisor Gary Larsen took a proactive approach to the dual problem of declining budgets and the on-going impacts of roads to water quality and fish and wildlife habitat. The Mt. Hood was a leader in decommissioning old, unneeded logging roads to restore watershed health. Lisa Northrop, the current Forest Supervisor, will be making two significant decisions about the road system in the coming months.

We want her to make the most of those opportunities and keep the Mt. Hood on a path to “right size” the road system to a size that serves the public, meets land management needs, and is both environmentally and financially sustainable. Please join us on this tour to discuss the Travel Analysis Process (TAP) and learn about the road infrastructure. We’ll consider how we can work together to ensure that the agency makes good decisions on the forest-wide TAP and also Road Decommissioning Increment 3 for the White River area on the east side of the mountain.